Dear Mr. Lucio Tan, how can overseas customers contact Philippine Airlines?

Dear Mr. Lucio Tan,

Dazzie, a co-staffer at the UPLB Perspective some years back and currently a member of the UP Baguio faculty, PM’ed me tonight. She was anxious and wanted help. She asked me if there’s a nearby landline.

It turns out Dazzie is in Phnom Penh and badly needed to call Philippine Airlines to have her Bangkok-Manila flight rebooked. Small problem? Not when you’re a PAL customer.

Dazzie already tried calling PAL’s hotline but failed to get connected to a customer service officer. She wasted $9.00 listening to the music on the automate hotline.

Naawa ako sa kanya so I dialed the PAL number here in Manila, got instantly connected but was put on hold because “all reservation officers are engaged at the moment”. The wait was long and dreary.

Twas only after 17 minutes that I was able to hear a living human voice, that of Claudine.

Tonyo: Good evening. I want you to help my friend. She’s in Phnom Penh now and has no way of reaching PAL.

Claudine: Yes sir.

Tonyo: She just wants to rebook her flight.

Claudine: Is Phnom Penh in Bali, sir?

Tonyo: No. Its in Cambodia.

I almost swallowed the phone I was holding.

Anyway, Claudine asked for Dazzie’s flight details and put me on hold for another two or three minutes to pull up the account.

When she came back, Claudine rebooked the flight as per Dazzie’s request. She patiently answered my queries for information that Dazzie needs for her rebooked flight home, the penalty fee, where to pay it, etc.

I am writing this for the countless Filipinos who go abroad for whatever purpose, and to express my disappointment that PAL has no international toll-free number for the ASEAN region. There are toll-free numbers only for Australia and the US. If a PAL customer happens to be anywhere else other than Australia or the US, and suddenly needs to rebook his/her flight, then it can become a nightmare. He/she has to call PAL’s hotline in the Philippines via expensive IDD and made to agonize while waiting for ages before hearing somebody actually lift the handset and provide much-needed service.

PAL should be able to provide an international toll-free number for all their customers abroad. At the very least, their website should provide a chat function — the ability to host private chats between customer service agents and customers — to settle problems such as rebooking, etc.

The current PAL website is useful for online booking and for checking flight status and promos, yes. But it lacks live contact points between the airline and customers.

A company with few and slow contact points alienates itself and does disservice to its customers.

Mr. Lucio Tan, I hope this letter finds it way to your desk.

Thanks,
Tonyo Cruz

Photos courtesy of Plane-Spotter and Answers.com.

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