How PAL treated passengers of plane that overshoot Butuan airport

[Philippine Airlines, our country’s flag carrier, is giving away free tickets. Maybe you’d like one yourself but I presume who do will think twice, thrice and several more times before getting themselves the privilege. My friend Roger got free tickets from PAL this way.]

Eager for his trip to scenic Camiguin, Roger, one of my friends, was up early last Oct. 26 for PAL flight PR 475 which was to depart for Butuan at 5:30 am.

Little did he know what was in store for him and more than a hundred fellow PAL passengers that morning.

It was supposed to be a short flight, just 1 hour and 30 minutes max, and the cabin announced one hour and 17 minutes later that they were already near Butuan.

What happened next was the first surprise of the day. No announcements of “please put on your seatbelts”, or “please brace yourself, we are going to make a stupid landing”.

To cut the story short, the plane made a rather quick descent, with the plane landing beyond the Butuan airport airstrip and overshot the runaway. The plane landed diagonally on a field with houses not so far away. Smoke slowly filled the insides of the plane, sparking panic among passengers.

Again, passengers heard no announcements from the captain or crew. Nothing.

In a panic, passengers got up and started getting their bags and started to make their way out of the plane through the back exit. Thankfully, there was an inflatable slide which passengers used to flee the plane already getting filled with smoke. Those near the nose of the plane had no inflatable slide and the passengers near the front exit just jumped off the plane from there.

If you think PAL and the Butuan airport authorities immediately rushed to the accident area, with doctors, paramedics and ambulances, think again. There were none. Not even a single cop was there.

Roger says that that soldiers based in a nearby camp brought in vehicles that feRogeried them to the airport.

At the airport, no one from PAL gave serious attention to the passengers, all victims of this accident. No one was helping out, no one was giving explanations or instructions on what to do next.

Due to the accident, many passengers sustained contusions, wounds and bruises in various parts of the body. Roger had some on his legs. No one was seriously injured, but the presence of doctors would have been appreciated. The closest thing to medical help was a security guard who came out with a huge ball of cotton and Betadine.

Roger said that he noticed four ambulances arrive at the airport, but they all disappeared. Roger later heard (but did not see) that the captain of their flight was wheeled out on a stretcher, with a head brace or something

After more than an hour, somebody from PAL tried to put some order in the chaos, assembling all passengers in one area, handing out their checked-in baggage and then providing breakfast.

Up to this point, or about two hours since the accident, there was no medical professional like a doctor, nurse or paramedic in sight! Somebody from PAL talked to Roger and offered to take him to a hospital.

After getting his checked-in baggage and having breakfast, Roger and the rest of the hapless passengers left Butuan airport one by one. Twas around 9:00 am.

“I was just content that I wasn’t seriously hurt and no one died,” Roger told me. But he adds that PAL should have been prepared for such an accident.

“They were disorganized and ill prepared,” says Roger.

On his return flight, Roger was handed at letter at the Butuan airport PAL check-in counter informing him that PAL was giving him a free round-trip ticket to any Philippine destination stays to “assuage whatever inconvenience” the accident caused.

Roger was at first happy but friends told him later that airlines would really give passengers of delayed or cancelled flights free tickets too — plus free meals and a free hotel stay. Of course, they would. That’s the price to pay for such inconvenience.

But in the case of Roger and other passengers of PAL flight 475, do you think PAL should just give them round-trip tickets and get away with all that happened and all that they did not do.

PAL must be made to explain what happened, why their flight crew and airport staff seemed so ill-prepared and what steps are being done now. Butuan airport authorities should also explain thing to the passengers and the public.

Some news articles about the incident which did not include PAL’s inferior accident and disaster preparedness:

NGO, civil society wants probe on Butuan airport safety
Airliner Overshoots Runway In Southern Philippines
Passenger plane overshoots Philippine runway; 34 hurt

Philippine Airlines plane overshoots runway; 19 hurt
Kids, hogs spared from crashing plane
34 hurt as PAL jet misses runway
Eroplano sumadsad sa Butuan