Miracle man in Vancouver
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2018 - 12:00am

On my way from a family reunion in Calgary to Kuala Lumpur to work the recent WBA welterweight title fight between defending champion Lucas Matthysse and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, I had a stopover in Vancouver to pick up the Philippine Airlines flight to Manila leading to another PAL flight to Malaysia.

Andrew Teh and Maureen Tan of Global Link Travel and Tours made sure my itinerary wouldn’t be tight so I could easily make my flight connections. But no one anticipated the PAL flight from Vancouver to Manila on July 11 would be cancelled. The plane was supposed to come in from New York but never got off the ground due to a mechanical problem. PR127 from Vancouver to Manila was scheduled to take off at 4:35 in the morning and along with over 100 passengers, I was at the airport waiting to check in when the cancellation was announced at 2 a.m. Some passengers said they were advised of the cancellation by e-mail. I wasn’t.

Since it was early in the morning, I hadn’t slept a wink all night and was exhausted. I spoke to the PAL ground staff explaining my situation. I said I hoped to be in K. L. in time for the weigh-in on July 14. I was told the cancelled flight would be reset to leave, tentatively at 3 p.m. later that day and passengers would receive hotel and food vouchers to tide them over. I was advised to check in my luggage so I wouldn’t lug it to the Holiday Inn Express for a few hours of sleep. PAL efficiently dispensed the vouchers to the passengers. The ground staff advised me where to go to take the shuttle from the airport to the hotel. I used half of my food voucher to grab a sandwich at Starbucks before heading for the hotel. I waited only a few minutes for the shuttle. The three PAL ground staff who took care of the arrangements were Jasper Aspacio, Kim Meneses and Anna Atengco.

Holiday Inn Express was comfortable and offered free breakfast. My problem was I had no change of clothes. I took a quick shower then plopped into bed. At 7:30 a.m., I got a call from Jasper saying the 3 p.m. rescheduled flight was cancelled but I would be accommodated on the PR117 leaving Vancouver at 1:30 a.m. the next day, July 12. That would mean adjusting my connection to K. L. Jasper said he would take care of that. The rescheduled PR127 flight would leave on July 13 so that would be too late to make the weigh-in or even the fight. 

I was back at the Vancouver airport to check in for the PR117 flight and was told I would be given a new luggage tag. The PAL ground staff said my luggage would be fished out from storage and loaded on PR117 with a new tag. Just as I cleared the gate to board, I was given my new luggage tag and the assurance that my connection to K. L. was confirmed but my boarding pass would be issued in Manila. It was Jasper who met me at the gate to hand over my new luggage tag. As I boarded, I found out the flight was fully booked so I was lucky to get my seat.

I arrived in Manila about an hour before the flight to K. L. on PR525. A PAL representative met me at the gate and escorted me to the transfer desk where I was given my boarding pass. My luggage didn’t make the connection. I reported the missing piece to the K. L. Baggage Services section and was told it would arrive on the PAL flight the next day. I was given the equivalent of $30 to make do. I still wore the same clothes I had on three days ago. In K. L., I bought underwear, pants and a shirt to use until my luggage arrived. I checked in at Le Meridien Hotel in K. L. by 4 p.m. and the next day, I was at the weigh-in. My luggage arrived in the afternoon.

Through this ordeal, I must commend PAL for its care and concern. In particular, Jasper was exceptional. Without his assistance, I wouldn’t have been able to reach the weigh-in in K. L. and I might have even missed the fight itself. He made sure I was accommodated on PR117, my luggage was fished out and re-tagged and my connection to K. L. was secure. Without his call at 7:30 a.m., I would’ve been stuck in Vancouver for one more day. 

After K. L., I went back to the US to rejoin my family for our reunion. And on the way back home last Saturday from New York on PR127, we had a stopover in Vancouver. While in the plane on the stopover, I saw Jasper again. He entered the plane to check on the turnover of the crew and other concerns. So I got up from my seat to thank him once more for his help. No worries, he said. 

Later, I related to flight purser Monique Gloria my experience with Jasper. Monique said Jasper actually told her I went up to thank him but he didn’t know what for. “That’s how he is,” said Monique. “Jasper’s our miracle worker in Vancouver. He helps out passengers, no matter who they are. He even forgot how he helped you because that’s part of his job, nothing extraordinary. In cases of overbooking, he manages to find a way to accommodate everyone somehow. He’ll find a different flight, shuffle passengers and in the end, everybody is satisfied.”

To Jasper and PAL, thanks for the help. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to witness and report on Sen. Manny’s remarkable victory and return to the throne. There is true meaning to PAL being the Heart of the Filipino.

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