CebuPac offloads boy over 'damaged passport'

Posted at 03/17/14 10:42 AM

Photo of the "damaged" passport of a 12-year-old-boy who was offloaded by budget carrier Cebu Pacific Saturday evening at NAIA-3. Photo by Jay-R Pajaro. Used with permission.

MANILA - A 12-year-old-boy scheduled for a medical procedure for a congenital condition was offloaded by budget carrier Cebu Pacific Saturday evening at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

Regin de Guzman Palileo said her son and her mother, Luisa Punzalan, were scheduled to board Cebu Pacific flight 5J 751 bound for Vietnam at 10 p.m. last March 15 when a certain Mark Rotanel from Cebu Pacific check-in counter informed them that the boy cannot board the plane because he was using a damaged passport.

Palileo said her son used the same passport in their latest travel to United States but they never experienced any problem with it.

She also told Rotanel that her son is scheduled to undergo an operation in Vietnam for pectus excavatum or "hollowed chest." The congenital condition shows the person's breastbone sunken into the chest.

Palileo said despite the pleadings and explanation of the medical emergency, Rotanel insisted that the airline has the right to offload any passenger using a damaged passport.

Palileo, her mother and her son were eventually offloaded from the plane Saturday night.

On Sunday, Palileo formally filed a complaint with the Manila International Airport Authority and the Cebu Pacific customer service desk.

In her complaint, Palileo insisted that her son's passport is not damaged or defective and asked the airport authority and Cebu Pacific management to sanction Rotanel for not allowing them to take their flight.

She also accused Mark of shouting at them when they insisted and explained why they should be allowed to leave.

Palileo said airport authorities referred the case to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which supposedly confirmed that the passport is still valid and has no defect.

However, to avoid further argument with the Cebu Pacific management, the DFA opened up its consular office on Sunday and issued a temporary (green) passport for the 12-year-old boy following a hearing on the urgent plea.

Palileo said a certain Benjamin Salcedo, Cebu Pacific station manager, attended to their complaint Sunday morning and subsequently booked them to leave for Vietnam the same day at 10:50 p.m. with no rebooking fee.

In a message on its Facebook page, Cebu Pacific said CEB's Guest Services team has already contacted the affected passengers and provided all necessary assistance so they could push through with their flight.

"We have also contacted Vietnam immigration authorities and arranged for the rebooking of the passengers. We pray for her son's successful operation."

"We are looking into what happened and will follow due process. At the same time, we will be in touch with the affected passengers to ensure that their concerns are properly addressed. We sincerely regret the inconvenience this has caused them."

Palileo said she is thankful with the intervention of the airport authority and DFA for listening to their plea for medical consideration.

She said she intends to pursue a complaint once she is through attending to her son's scheduled operation.

The 12-year-old boy, who witnessed the entire incident, also expressed his disappointment. In an interview with ABS-CBN, he narrated how her mother begged Cebu Pacific ground staff to let them board the flight, to no avail.

The Palileos are expected to be back either Thursday or Friday, depending on the result of the surgery. – Raoul Esperas