MANILA – The government is looking to bring home before Christmas hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who found themselves stuck in Hong Kong after their flight bookings were botched by their travel agency.
With this, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said various agencies are coordinating with Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of National Defense (DND) and Philippine Airlines (PAL) for the Filipinos to be brought back home as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We have the instructions from President Duterte na iuwi namin kayo (OFWs) before Christmas (to bring you home before Christmas).
“So we have talked to PAL and they will update their flights; they might be accommodated one by one … Those who were stranded there will be able to go home, in two to three days before Christmas,” Sec. Bello said in a television interview.
At the same time, the DOLE chief said that they already communicated with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) with regards to the possible liability of travel agency that figured in this fiasco.
For some reason, the bookings never translated into valid tickets – for about 1,000 OFWs.
The travel agency, PEYA TRAVEL, issued a message of apology and pledged to do all it can to face up to each and every grievance.
Some of the affected OFWs simply bought alternative tickets just to get home, at added expense to them.
Meanwhile, the Hongkong based Cathay Pacific Airways has moved to make available so-called special distress flights at discounted rates.
Philippine Airlines will be using larger aircraft for flights to Hong Kong on Dec. 22 and 23, 2017 and on January 3 and 4, 2018.
The airline is providing additional capacity on the Manila – Hong Kong – Manila route by upgrading the aircraft from the originally assigned 199-seater Airbus A321 to the 309-seater tri-class Airbus A330.
Cebu Pacific, on the other hand, is trying “to see how we can assist the affected Filipino migrant workers.
“Our flights back to the Philippines — and we fly from Hong Kong to Manila, Cebu, Clark, Iloilo and Kalibo – are full at this point in time. The next available flight with vacant seats is on the evening of December 25th.
“As most of our flights are reaching full capacity in light of the peak holiday travel season, we are trying to see how to increase capacity to help OFWs get home.”