It was one of those flights one can only be grateful for not taking. It was PAL Flight PR 813 I was supposed to be on last October 26. The airline people said the plane that was to take us from Manila to Davao at 3 o’clock in the afternoon was hit by lightning. Don’t ask me how that happened but I was simply grateful the flight did not push through or else we would’ve been blown to kingdom come and I won’t be writing this now.
In as much as most of the passengers wanted to go home or take their vacation or business meeting, no one had a choice but to remain in Manila. Since it was the airline’s “fault”, the passengers were either given an allowance for transportation to go home for the night or to billet them at the ritzy Diamond Hotel along Roxas Blvd. (For more information, please visit their website at http://www.diamondhotel.com/)
Sorry for those who opted to go home because those who stayed were accorded a luxurious accommodation and dinner courtesy of the airlines of course. A shuttle service also took the stranded passengers from the airport and back. Talking of convenience. The rooms were huge and nice, the buffet dinner was sumptuous and the service was outstanding. It was a glorious night, I’m sure the nuns in front of me at the bus would agree.
At 1.30 in the morning the following day, we had to drag our sleepy bodies to the airport to check in again. There were two flights instead of one at 3.30 a.m. and 3.45 a.m. Instead of just sleeping in the departure area, I listed down some of my observations and lessons learned from the experience. Let me go through them with you:
PAL Crew and Diamond Hotel Staff
Despite the inconvenience to their customers, they were very accommodating and answered questions and gave directions patiently. I asked a front desk personnel of the hotel why they were still smiling despite the long lines of people checking in. She sweetly smiled and said they had to, it’s their job. I was struck with this petite lady from PAL who was directing the passengers before leaving the airport and who was also there when the passengers checked in. Exhaustion was evident on her face but she was saintly patient as she directed the passengers to their ticket counters. Her name is Ms. Ann Castro.
I was surprised to note there were no passengers who neither raised their voices nor complained angrily. Everyone seemed calm and waited for their turns in the bus, at the hotel, in the check-in counters. There were also some foreigners particularly Koreans and a group of Nepalese businessmen. They just took their seats, talked to their companions or slept on the benches before the early morning flight. Does this mean, we’ve come a long way in terms of discipline or everyone just realized that safety is better than convenience?
Perhaps it was a big help that people already have mobile phones because as soon as the announcement of the flight cancellation has been aired, the passengers started calling up family, friends and colleagues. That probably contributed to a less stressful situation unlike in the olden days when everyone would be very anxious, both the passengers and those who will pick them up.
Sense of Humour
It is good to be calm in unavoidable situations like this. It is best to keep a sense of humour though. It was heartening to see people smiling, joking with one another and simply taking everything with a sense of gratitude and positive attitude.
- It pays to travel light especially when the trip to be taken is short.
- It is good to keep an extra set of clothes (underwear included, of course) and toiletries in one’s carry-on in case an emergency happens. If not, still, it is better to be prepared than sorry.
- Chargers and other devices are better kept in one’s carry-on, too.
- It is also good to have a travel companion to while the time and tension away by talking. In the absence of one, it helps to have a music player or a good book to read while waiting.
The flight home was a bit turbulent and scared some of the passengers. I slept my fears away. Finally, it was touchdown Davao. We could only sigh with relief and mutter thanks for a safe travel home. These airport scenes have never been more beautiful and welcoming than that time.
It was one “airy” experience worth remembering.