Of cancelled flights, delays + someone's birthday!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

For the first time in my ENTIRE life.  I experienced not one but TWO (2) cancelled flights.  Add to the fact that I was with Kailee and Connor.  Thank goodness we were stranded at the Hong Kong International Airport!  Had we been stuck in NAIA - all hell would break lose!!  PLUS someone special was celebrating their birthday..

Last week on the day of the holiday we flew to HK for our annual trip.  What welcomed us was a rainy Hong Kong, but it was just on the day we arrived.  The next days were gloomy and sunny.  Something not new to us since we're used to the HK wet and hot summer.  The trip was kind of relaxed.  For the first time, I didn't make an IT nor a list of places to go and eat.  I was serious with the *Bahala Na* plan.  Hihi..  We got to try new restaurants deviated from our comfort choices and survived!  Hahaha... :)

Last Saturday was our last day in HK.  We're usually in a rush, but that particular day - we were very relaxed.  We were able to manage our time properly.  I am one who doesn't like to rush things.  I'd like to have some room (of time) to adjust, you know just in case something happens.  I have this day that I call airport days - these days I don't make plans because I want to be able to properly plan my time just in case something happens.  That's just me.  So, we had an early lunch - then after decided to head to the airport.  I didn't want to get caught in the immigration lines (since it's summer vacation for most of the world)  So, when we reached the airport - we immediately looked for the gate of our flight.  It was oddly strange that there was no gate indicated in the monitor, but we just dismissed this.   Went through immigration and by the time we finished, there was still no gate on the monitor!  I was getting worried though, that it would be a super duper far gate - but I remained calm.  A hour before the departure time - well, there was still no gate.  I was already getting impatient.  We then decided to just sit in a gate near a play area for the kids.  That was gate 23.  About 30 minutes before the departure time, there was still no gate.  I went to the Airline Services Desk and asked a staff who was dressed in a Cathay Pacific FA attire.  I then asked if our flight was going to be delayed.  She answered me with a *MAYBE it will be delayed*  I had to retort back *Are you kidding me?  MAYBE?  It's 30 minutes before departure time and your answer is MAYBE?* the male staff beside her seemed to understand what I was getting at and he blurted out *Yes, the flight is delayed*  I then thanked him and said that his was the better answer, because it was more truthful!  So on my back to the play area to report to my Panget what I learned, I saw on the monitor that there was finally a gate assigned - it was Gate 70.  But wait - I saw some chinese characters in RED that was flashing.  I had to wait a moment for it to turn into english, and it read ... CANCELLED.

Oh my freaking GOSH.

I ran towards my Panget to tell him that the flight was cancelled and that we needed to head to Gate 70 to know what will happen next.  Imagine my shock to discover that Gate 70 was all the way to the end of the airport.  I immediately called the kids and motioned them to sit on their strollers.  Yaya Belen and I were brisk walking like crazy.  We had a good 15 minutes of fast walk before we reached Gate 70.  I was honestly out of breath when we got there.  And it was mayhem.  I told my Panget to settle the kids somewhere and come look for me near the counter.  I managed to squeeze my way in the front just in time to hear a CX staff say that the flight was indeed CANCELLED.  They were motioning for us to move back because they were setting up the airport stanchions.  Most of the travelers there were getting impatient mainly because of the lack of information given us.  I must admit, it was confusing because they only said *THE FLIGHT HAS BEEN CANCELLED*.  I'm sure what was on everyone's head was *WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?*

One thing I knew was to REMAIN CALM.  I'm sure everyone's upset, but being angry and shouting will get no one anywhere.  There was one female passenger who wanted an answer but no one could give her a direct answer, I understood why she was angry but you also have to understand that the people assisting us were also given that same information just minutes before.  The female passenger had a point - the airline knew beforehand that there was going to a cancellation - it would have been better had they prepared a solution right away instead of gathering everyone in and assisting them one by one.  She had a point BUT then again - maybe the airline was understaffed?  Who knows!  Anyway, the reason that they gave us for the cancellation was a TECHNICAL ISSUE.  I honestly didn't want to know any more specifics of the technical issue because it was irrelevant.  Some passengers wanted to know more details - but for me, it's useless.  What I needed what a solution.  So, one by one - we were assisted.  We were told that we'd be transferred to the 10pm flight that same day (it was the LAST FLIGHT out of Hong Kong going to Manila) - we were given our boarding passes and the time of boarding was printed at 9:25PM.  I asked them if the flight was confirmed to take off or not - and it was (according to them).  We were also give HKD150.00 meal vouchers per person, so we had a total of HKD750.00 to spend at ANY restaurant.



When I got back to the kids, I had a moment to settle down and let everything sink in.  Our flight was cancelled and we needed to wait a long while before we could fly back home.  I started sending messaged to our families to report what happened.  I called the driver not to pick us up at the time we agreed on and instead gave him a new time to be at the airport (which was at 1230am).  We then had a LOT of time on our hands.  We thought, what was there to do?  I honestly didn't want to walk very far to go back to the restaurants located after immigration.  We then played it safe - looked at the next flights going to Manila checked out the gate numbers and assumed that more or less, these were the gates we would be assigned to.  So we stayed within the area of Gate 60-70.  Connor and Kailee were entertained by the iPad, while I was walking around trying not to get bored.  My Panget was playing with his iPad and Yaya Belen took a snooze.  We all had one issue - we were all thirsty.  All our bottled waters were thrown out including water for the kids.  The female security personnel told us *No water, any amount of water allowed for kids ages 3 and up.  Only below 3 years old*  So to the trash bags our bottled and waters went.  I had to walk to a restaurant to buy water using our meal vouchers.  WE didn't want to spend money anymore and since there was a meal voucher - why not make the most out of it!

All restaurants sold EVIAN water.  It costs an arm and a leg.  So with my HKD75.00 I was only able to buy three (3) yes, three freaking bottles of 300ml Evian water.  When I came back, my Panget even questioned me why it was only three bottles!  I told him that these three bottles cost HKD24.00 each and since I only had HKD75.00 this was all I could buy.  He then told me to buy in Mannings.  I had to remind him that he didn't want to shell out for water, thus - these three (3) freakingly expensive bottles of Evian should do!  We even had to strategize.  Yaya Belen and I would share 1 bottle, the kids 1 bottle and my Panget 1 bottle.

We were lucky that we got stranded in HKIA.  Had it been in NAIA - my gosh, we would have been bored to death.  At the very least, HKIA was spacious, the AC was cold and there were play areas for the kids.  After a few hours of entertaining ourselves, we decided to eat.  I mean, we had to eat since our flight was at 10pm that night.  We were looking for a restaurant to eat.  I always assumed that there was a Maxim's restaurant inside the airport, apparently - there was one.  It was just unfortunate that the location was right before the immigration section.  So in short, we were stuck with the *Canteen Style* restaurants on Level 7 right after immigration.  My Panget didn't want to walk that far plus we surmised it would be impossible to find a table.  We settled for a restaurant near Gate 60.  There was a Tai Hing that served rice topping meals - and as you would have guessed - we settled for that.  We ate and enjoyed the peace and quiet for a while.  Thank goodness for the brains behind the FREE CHARGING stations, we were able to charge most of our gadgets in preparation for the countdown to our flight.

Once we finished and freshened up, we decided to walk to an information counter to ask if there was already an assigned gate for our 10PM flight.  There was a gate assigned and it was Gate 4.  My golly gosh we were nearby Gate 60 so that meant a long, really long walk.  So we started our walk.  This time, we were not rushing since we had a LOT of time - we just walked and walked and walked.  It was at the opposite end of where we were.  Yaya Belen was saying that HKIA was ginormous that it was massive.  I told her that they created it this big to accommodate people comfortably, I even told her there was another wing - half this size on the other end.  She then compared our NAIA to this and she said ours was nothing compared to this - I then told her, that is was foresight does, preparation for what is to come.

By 8PM, we were already very tired.  We started walking nearer to our gate and it dawned on us that we still have unused meal vouched amounting to HKD375.00!  I told my Panget to check first before we go any nearer to the gate because I didn't want to walk back to a restaurant just to redeem.  Luckily, my Panget said there was a Deli France.  When we got there, we gave the vouchers to the person behind the counter and started to point to whatever pastry we could see on display.  I think we got about a dozen or so.  Yaya Belen kidded with my Panget that he had more than a week's worth of breakfast fare.  Hihi..  And so we waited again, eagerly anticipating the boarding time.

At 9PM, I went to the counter to ask if the flight was really leaving because I didn't want to go through what we went through.  The staff was confident that the flight would take off, she mentioned that there might just be a delay since the plane hasn't arrived yet.  I felt a bit settled, I mean if it's a plane problem - Cathay Pacific had a lot, HKIA is their hub + the plane was near HK already.

Lo and behold at 9:30PM there was no plane in sight.  People were starting to stand to line up even if there was no plane in sight.  by 9:45PM there was an announcement that departure time was moved to 10:30PM.  Thirty minutes was short compared to the hours we waited.  So we kept our cool and just waited.  We started boarding by 10PM.  We were able to go ahead of the line because we had strollers and kids in tow.  As we were cutting in the line to move to another line (Business Class) I was surprised to see a familiar face, Grace!  Grace and I met through a common friend and as it turns out, she belonged to the same batch as my Panget in their HS.  We exchanged pleasantries and small talk, we told them that our flight was cancelled and we were moved to this time - they Grace and her friend Jen were really booked at this flight.  My Panget and I were so relieved and excited to be boarding as we were already very tired and really wanted to go home (uwing uwi na talaga kami).  As we were boarding, we heard thunder and saw lightning - it began to rain hard.  While in line to get in, I saw another friend - she said that her flight was cancelled twice!  Apparently we were on the same flight (that was cancelled) going to Manila.  We were happily boarding the plane already.

When we settled ourselves on the plane, I was happy that there were individual TVs on each seat.  This meant that the kids would be entertained.  I was betting that Kailee would be asleep already as Connor was able to sleep on his stroller for a good hour.  Since we were the first ones to board, we just watched TV while waiting for the others to board.  I was happily watching Sex and the City Season 3.  I forgot how entertaining the show was and was so engrossed in watching.  One episode let to another episode then another episode.  It was raining so hard.  An announcement was made that they will wait for the weather to settle a bit before taking off.  I was so engrossed with watching Carrie that I totally forgot the time.  I didn't even notice anything was amiss during the wait.  It was only when Kailee was clapping her hands after the Barbie movie she was watching ended that I realized that we were still in HK!  She looked out the window and asked *Are we in the Philippines?*  I looked at the window and we were still in Hong Kong!  I looked at the time and it was a little passed 12midnight.  I turned to my Panget and said *Happy Birthday!*  Kailee and Connor followed suit.  Yes, it was Panget's birthday and what a way so spend it right?  I asked the FA what was happening.  Within minutes there was an announcement from the pilot.  Apparently, our Manila airport has a no fly zone from 2am to 4am.  So if we fly out and reach Manila by 2am - we won't be allowed to land!  Then we were all told that we needed to be off loaded!



To tell you the truth, I was comfortable waiting inside the plane.  The AC was cold, there were snacks, there are individual TV for everyone's entertainment.  I was honestly thinking, not bad I mean since I would be able to watch more Sex and the City episodes.  But nope, we needed to get off the plane.  While everyone was waking up and groaning, I told my Panget that we should be the last ones out.  I mean I expected another mayhem outside.  True enough, when we got off the plane and reached the counter - so many people were lining up, it was noisy - there was chaos.  I then went to my friend Grace and (new friend) Jen who were seated comfortably and I began to tell my story of how our flight was cancelled and now this flight was cancelled.  I believe that it was by pure luck too that I bumped into Grace before boarding, because if not for seeing Grace, I wouldn't have met her friend Candice, who was speaking to a CX staff and was able to convince that staff to bring them to the lounge to *rest*, when I heard it I asked if we could also go since we were at the airport after lunch!  The Cathay Pacific staff looked apologetic and motioned for us to follow her.  Pure luck, right?

And so we waited and chatted and laughed and shared stories, while Kailee slept in the chair and Connor ran around the lounge.  It was a nice way to get delayed, we were very very lucky.  Thank you Grace, Jen and Candice!  Our flight left a little after 4am, and we got to Manila by 6:30am.  We had to wait for our bags and it took a while.  We reached home at 7:30am.  We all showered and then dozed off.



I honestly can't believe how we managed to survived more than 14 hours being in the airport.  It was a craaaazy long day, crazy long day.  I must say, we were very lucky - very very lucky.

It baffled me though, that this happened on a Cathay Pacific flight.  I mean of all the airlines, CX is the one that I least expected to have cancelled flight and delays.  If it was PAL or Cebu Pacific, it would have been *expected* but with Cathay Pacific?  It was a loooong long shot.  But I guess, shit happens.

It was sucha long loooong day.  I felt as if I lost a whole day because of the cancelled flight and delays.  We didn't get to celebrate Panget's birthday properly as we were all sleepy and tired when we got home.

I do hope that Cathay Pacific makes it up to us somehow.  What would you do if this happened to you?  Let me know!

UPDATE:  08/24/2015
After more than 10 email exchanges with Cathay Pacific, they've finally sent us Service Vouchers to compensate for what happened.  Initially they gave us USD100.00, but I complained telling them that I didn't think it was enough.  I had to argue that it wasn't just one (1) flight that was cancelled but two (2)!  I wasn't asking much, I simply said maybe USD200.00 would be better, but my suggestion was dismissed.  We replied back and forth - and in the end, out of frustration - I wrote to the former country manager of CX and after just one reply - it was decided that they give us additional compensation of USD400.00!  All I can say is, it pays to complain - but only if and ONLY IF you make your argument very reasonable.  Thank you Cathay Pacific!!


2 comments :

  1. I had a very similar experience in Beijing flying back to Manila then but sadly I flew China Southern (business trip so not my choice). It was horrible coz I was alone, I could barely understand what was happening and yes, naabutan kami ng no-fly-zone which got the entire plane cursing the Philippines for such a funny rule. I'm glad you guys got home safely. :)

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    1. Hi Fran! Thanks so much! I always assumed that aiports need to be open 24/7, apparently NOT in the Manila!! Grabe. I feel you Fran! I would get super worried kapag hindi ko maintindihan ang mga happenings!! Miss you FRan! So proud of you and what you have accomplished there in SG. See you next month!!! :) Mwaaaah!!

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