Scores of expats are unable to fly home for Christmas as the tickets they have paid for turn out to be non-existent
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Hordes of overseas Filipino workers who were looking forward to spend Christmas and New Year in their home country have been stranded in Hong Kong and are likely to spend the holidays away from their families, as the flights they booked turned out to be non-existent.
The travellers who are mostly domestic helpers had purchased flights with different airlines through Peya Travel several months in advance, but when they showed up at the airport this week, they were told their booking did not exist.
Approximately 200 to 1,000 Philippines-bound travellers are believed to have been affected by the travel fiasco, according to a report by South China Morning Post. The stranded Filipinos have flocked to the travel agency’s office to demand an answer and sort out the issue, but to no avail.
— Hannah Dormido (@hannahdormido) December 20, 2017
Gulf News tried but the travel agency could not be reached for comment. Authorities, however, have already warned overseas Filipinos not to deal with the firm until the issue is resolved.
Maricho Leja, who works as a nanny for a couple in Hong Kong, had paid the travel agency for a return flight with Cathay Pacific last August 7 and was given a “confirmed” ticket.
Her flight was supposed to leave on Wednesday and she was really looking forward to it as she has not been home for five years. However, as news about the non-existent tickets spread, Leja later realised that her flight, too, was not confirmed.
“I was already in panic mode when news broke about the non-existent tickets, so I called up the airline to double check if I was indeed assigned a seat, but I was told my name was not on the list of booked passengers,” Leja told Gulf News.
“I ended up buying another ticket so I could get home today,” said Leja. The Filipino expatriate said the situation has impacted her financially, as she had to shell out a hefty sum to pay for the ticket.
Leja, along with other passengers, have already lodged a complaint with the authorities and she’s hoping that she will still get her money back.
“I spent 8,770 Hong Kong dollars just for the ticket. That’s roughly 56,000 pesos (Dh4,105) back home. I had to spend some of my pocket money just to get a second set of tickets.”
The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said it is deeply concerned over reports of unissued tickets and unconfirmed bookings of Filipino expatriates.
“The public is advised not to transact with Peya Travel until such time that this issue is resolved and all aggrieved parties have received just compensation.”
“The Consulate also expects Peya Travel to take responsibility for this unfortunate incident and take all possible and necessary steps to settle this matter to the satisfaction of the aggrieved parties.”
Some airlines operating on the Hong Kong-Philippines route are exploring the possibility of accommodating the affected passengers by offering discounted fares or deploying a bigger aircraft.
For Filipino friends affected by the issues related to a HK travel agent not affiliated with us, we stand ready to help as much as we can. Please DM us.— Cathay Pacific (@cathaypacific) December 19, 2017
But it looks like many of the expatriates will be spending Christmas away from home.
“We’re trying to see how we can assist the affected Filipino migrant workers who had booked via Peya Travel. 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,” said Cebu Pacific in a statement shared in social media.
“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 to the Philippines.”