Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tiger Airways' passengers bound for Macau stranded

By Dante M. Fabian, Sun Star

CLARK ECOZONE -- One hundred sixty passengers of Tiger Airways' flights TR502 and TR 503 scheduled to leave for Macau last Monday and Tuesday afternoon were stranded due to the non-arrival of the firm's airplanes at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA).

The passengers assailed the delay and the discomfort caused by the absence of the Tiger Airways planes, which were supposed to fly them to Macau.

Sun.Star Pampanga also learned that despite the non-arrival of the planes, the passengers were made to pay their travel taxes in the amount of P1,620 per head.

The passengers decried government officials for allowing Tiger Airways to collect payments for bookings on flights beyond the expiry of its landing rights last December 31.

Anxious to get back to their jobs in Macau, the passengers, mostly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), complained that while they wallowed in discomfort and waited for their plane, there were no Tiger Airways officials to explain and inform them of their situation.

The stranded passengers' anxiety were even heightened by Samuel Tubale, DMIA operations manager, who told them that aside from helping Tiger Airways to obtain its landing rights, there was nothing DMIA officials could do to help them.

Tubale said the airline has its office in Manila and is represented in DMIA by the Clark Airport Ground Handling Services Inc. (CAGHSI).

The unpleasant reputation drawn by the Tiger Airways in booking passengers in its Macau-Clark-Macau flights while facing obstructions of its landing rights has rubbed off on the preference for DMIA as a gateway for tourists and overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

Two French students expressed dismay over the inconvenience they suffered at the airport, saying that this would make them think seriously before coming back to the country.

A group set to go on a 10-day tour in Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam said the delay would cause the loss of the money they paid in advance for their hotel accommodations in these countries.

Jonnalyn Gunnawa of Mountain Province, a domestic helper in Macau, said the delay of her flight may cause the loss of her job as her employers may have replaced her with Indonesian job-seekers.

Gunnawa also called on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to act on anomalies surrounding the damaging delays on passengers flying through the airport named after Arroyo's late father, former President Diosdado Macapagal.

Bunggay said she is going to her children in Macau to help them in attending to her grandchildren.

Cheng Kim, a dentist from Cavite, told reporters that early Tuesday afternoon, a certain Wowie, who introduced himself as a representative of Tiger Airways, informed them that the airline will send in a plane later that night to fly them to Singapore where they can take connecting flights to Macau.

However, as the time of arrival drew near, they noticed that the flight disappeared from the flight schedule monitors at the waiting lounge.

Most of the passengers chose to stay and wait for their flight at the DMIA, saying that they have spent all their money and could no longer afford to return to their provinces, adding that they may even get defaulted if they fail to return whenever Tiger Airways gets a rescue flight.

Danilo Francia, Clark International Airport Corporation (Ciacor) president, arranged accommodations for the stranded passengers at the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) guesthouses and at the Montevista Hotel villas.

Coordinating with the representatives of the passengers, Richie Nacpil, Francia's assistant, supervised the transportation of the passengers to the MonteVista and CDC guesthouses where they stayed.

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