PAL speaks up on controversial PR 731 Bangkok-Manila flight

Chrisee Dela Paz

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PAL speaks up on controversial PR 731 Bangkok-Manila flight
PAL says it's not part of protocol to stop passengers from leaving the plane while it's being fixed

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Airlines, Incorporated (PAL) sheds light on its controversial PR 731 Bangkok-Manila flight last Sunday, February 21, which was delayed on the tarmac in Bangkok for about 5 hours.

This was after writer Inday Espina-Varona last Monday, February 22 wrote a blog about her 5-hour “PAL tarmac hell” experience last Sunday.

Espina-Varona, who was one of the passengers, said she and other passengers had to wait 3 to 5 hours to deplane, enduring hot cabin temperature and heated argument with the cabin crew and Captain Filemon Tacan.

This caused stir on social media after a video showed pilot-in-command Tacan reassuring his passengers’ safety by saying his “life is more important” than theirs.


In response, the management of PAL said that it is conducting an “internal investigation” on the matter.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said in an e-mail that the airline is investigating two points of controversy:

  • the manner by which the pilot communicated with the passengers during waiting period; and
  • the decision of the pilot to keep passengers onboard despite their pleas to deplane and wait in the terminal in view of discomfort caused by warm cabin temperature.

PAL: This is what happened

Asked if all these are part of PAL’s protocol, Villaluna replied in a text message: “There is no protocol not to deplane passengers while a technical issue is being addressed.”

PAL then laid out what had happened before, during, and after the controversial flight.

According to PAL, PR 731 (Bangkok-Manila) was originally set to depart 1:50 pm Bangkok time. 

Aircraft Airbus 340 pushed back from passenger tube at around 2:15 pm, but a few minutes into taxiing, it returned to ramp due to a technical issue that had to be addressed, PAL said. “It was during this period that exchanges between flight crew and passengers were taking place.”

From 2:15 pm to past 5 pm, the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit (APU) was being fixed by PAL’s ground technical personnel.

PAL said aircraft cabin temperature was hot even if the ground power unit was being utilized because its APU was being fixed.

“However, pilot refused to let them deplane but instead, wait it out inside the plane,” PAL said.

Past 5 pm, or 3 hours after the aircraft returned to ramp, PAL said the technical issue was resolved and the plane was scheduled for take-off.

“However, it was during this time that more tan 60 passengers opted not to join the flight and to deplane,” the management of the flag carrier said.

PAL said its passengers took other flights that evening and the following day to travel back to Manila.

Villaluna said that PAL management reminded all flight crew to observe proper communication at all times, including during operational exigencies. 

“It is unfortunate that there was a deviation from the norm as far as communication is concerned. We apologize for the way it affected the sensibilities of passengers,” the PAL spokesperson added.

“In the interest of due process, the side of the pilot-in-command will be heard,” Villaluna said. –

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