POSTSCRIPT / July 31, 2007 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Going to US? Better avoid flying Northwest

ORDEAL: Filipinos traveling to the United States better think twice before they fly Northwest Airlines.

Take it from me. I had a fully paid, confirmed, seat-already-assigned ticket on two connected Northwest flights for July 28: NW 334 from Los Angeles to Detroit and NW 472 from Detroit to my final destination Newark.

As I was writing my Postscript at dawn of July 27 in Los Angeles, I thought of checking on the NWA website my booking status. To my shock, I discovered that the Detroit-Newark flight (NW 472) had been cancelled!

Northwest had my contact number, but never bothered to inform me. I called their toll-free number and ended up talking to a cold computer that could not grasp my predicament. It did suggest that I might want to email my complaint to them.

Although emailing is time-consuming for both parties, I did. Responding to my complaint, NW told me to look for alternative flights for rebooking. But the earliest flights I found on their website were for Aug. 3 or later, not July 28.

* * *

SLEEPLESS IN L.A.: In exasperation, I emailed back that I did not care how they would do it, but that they just had to find a way to deliver me to Newark on the agreed date and time as contracted in my confirmed ticket.

I added that I have not slept and did not have the time to surf the net for available seats. They created the problem, and did not inform me about it, so they should solve it themselves and not pass it on to this harassed passenger.

(If I got stranded, I would have abused the hospitality of my classmate Medardo Madlangbayan and his wife Juliet, in whose house in Corona I and another classmate Julian Almonte stayed.)

I ended up taking a different airline (Delta) using another route (via Salt Lake City) to Newark. It must have been a Black Saturday, because the alternative flight (DL 1621) that I was to take at Los Angeles for Salt Lake and Newark developed engine trouble. Its takeoff at LAX was delayed more than two hours.

* * *

LABOR ROW?: At Salt Lake, the delayed Delta 1621 dropped the onward leg to Newark. I had to take another plane (Continental, CO 0685), which arrived at Newark past 6 a.m. of Sunday instead of the original NW schedule of 10:46 p.m. Saturday.

The saving grace was that CO 0685 turned out to be a pleasant night ride with an efficient, caring crew.

That was not the end of my travails. With all that switching and chasing of planes, my checked baggage failed to catch up and arrive with me at Newark. As I write this, I’m still in the clothes I wore when I flew out of Los Angeles July 28.

Over the weekend, I heard from industry friends that some NW pilots and crews have been calling-in sick to express their discontent with management. Could this be the reason why my original NW 472 connecting flight was suddenly canceled?

Whatever the reason(s), NW should have informed me on time and taken steps without prodding to meet its end of the contract of carriage. Anybody else of weaker constitution could have collapsed from the stress NW inflicted on me.

* * *

PAPER WARRANT: Authorities have issued arrest warrants for 130 Moro guerrillas linked to the July 10 killing of 14 Marines who were later beheaded.

Most of the 130 suspected killers are members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which goes through the motions of holding “peace talks” with the government.

More than 2,000 soldiers have been sent to Basilan in a show of force. The 12,000-strong MILF has admitted killing the Marines who, it said, strayed into its territory. At least two MILF commanders had been linked to the beheading, but the front denied any of its men was involved.

That denial is the signal that no MILF member would ever be surrendered for investigation, much less prosecution. That also means that, as usual, the government is likely to limp out of the case empty-handed.

* * *

CAMPS RETURNED: Until proved otherwise, the truth — it seems to me — is that the government, or more precisely the Arroyo administration, is afraid of Moro armed groups in the South.

It is unthinkable that Moro bands with secessionist goals hold territory within the Republic over which their flags, and not the Philippine standard, fly and into which no soldier or public official dares to set foot without their permission.

In his time, then President Joseph Estrada drove the armed forces to capture the supposedly impregnable Moro camps and haul down the rebel flags. They did.

But President Gloria Arroyo, after taking over from Mr. Estrada, returned the camps to the rebels. Imagine, after loyal troops spent lives and logistics, sweat and blood, capturing the rebel camps, the Commander-in-Chief ordered them returned!

I can see only one explanation: She is afraid of the Moro terrorists.

* * *

COWARDICE: The “Strong Republic” has shown not only what looks like cowardice. It has also shown poor judgment by allowing the internal conflict to gain international color by bringing in foreigners who now presume to tell us what to do.

The Moro trouble-makers have gained recognition of some foreign powers — another element of a state added to the other elements of territory, people and government.

This will lead eventually to the emergence of a separate Bangsamoro, to the dismemberment of Muslim Mindanao.

We have painted ourselves into a stupid corner. Now, no significant move to ease or solve the centuries-old problem can be made without the approval of pro-Moro foreign representatives coming in the guise of observers.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 31, 2007)

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