At least 200 passengers stranded at NAIA after airlines cancel domestic flights

Volunteers give food to stranded passengers at NAIA. Photo: Monique Ramirez/FB
Volunteers give food to stranded passengers at NAIA. Photo: Monique Ramirez/FB

At least 200 domestic passengers were left stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City yesterday when their flights were unceremoniously canceled.

Photos and videos of the struggling travelers showed them sleeping underneath a bridge opposite the airport, while some took refuge underneath trees.

A passenger identified only as Mae Ann, who was supposed to take a flight to Davao City, tearfully told television news show 24 Oras, “We just sleep here and we have nowhere to hide from the elements. We have a ticket but they kept canceling it without informing us. We have complete [documents]: rapid test, travel authority, village certification, clearance. How come they won’t let us board the plane?”

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To control the spread of COVID-19, the Philippine government requires stranded individuals to possess a document called a travel pass before they can go to areas beyond their current residence.

In an interview today with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Adrian Martinez, who works for the Pasay City Hall, said he had spoken with the passengers and learned that some of them arrived at dawn just so they could catch their 6am flight, which was later canceled.

“Let’s just be clear. These people paid for their commercial flights. These are not free flights. We asked them where they came from and they’re from really far places and they arrived there because they were afraid they won’t be able to catch their flights at the airport. They’re not from Pasay; they’re from cities outside Pasay such as Taguig, Parañaque, Makati, Caloocan, a few from Rizal, and a few from Pampanga,” Martinez said.

He said many of the travelers were planning to go home to Mindanao. He appealed to airline companies to assist their passengers should they cancel their flights.

“In the past when flights are canceled, these airlines take care of their passengers. These are paying customers. I hope that before they cancel their bookings, they should remember that these people have nowhere to go home to,” Martinez said.

Earlier this month, at least a thousand passengers were left stranded at the airport after they fell prey to rumors that free domestic flights were being offered. Many of those stranded, who slept on cardboard boxes and towels laid out on the floor of the NAIA, were overseas Filipino workers who just finished their mandatory COVID-19 quarantine.

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