MANILA - Cebu Pacific on Tuesday issued an official statement on the case involving a 12-year-old boy who was not allowed to board his flight to Vietnam on March 15.
The boy, who was travelling with his mother, was scheduled to undergo a medical procedure the next day.
Mark Ratonel, who was manning Cebu Pacific's check-in counter at that time, offloaded both mother and son because the boy, who was scheduled for an operation to fix a "hollowed chest," was using a damaged passport with loose pages and a fold.
An officer of the Bureau of Immigration told ABS-CBN News that Ratonel neither coordinated nor referred the case with their office and that BI allows passengers with a defective or damaged passport to leave or enter the Philippines in special cases.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also confirmed that the passport is still valid and has no defect. Nevertheless, it issued a temporary passport for the boy.
According to a statement we received from Cebu Pacific's corporate communications manager Michelle G. Pestaño:
"Mr. Ratonel followed standard procedure in not allowing Mr. Gabriel Palileo to fly on a damaged passport. Mr. Ratonel checked via email correspondence, including sending a photograph of the subject passport as is, with the Vietnamese immigration authorities at the time that the Palileo family was checking in, if the passport would be accepted. The reply was in the negative. Mr. Ratonel believed that had he allowed Mr. Palileo to board the flight that evening, he would have been deported by the Vietnamese immigration authorities."
We're not sure about the protocol to follow here, but we wonder how easy it is for a check-in personnel to contact Vietnam's Immigration Department directly and receive an immediately reply.
We also wonder if it is within the duty of an airline personnel to handle cases like this directly instead of coursing it through our own Bureau of Immigration officers.
In the statement, Cebu Pacific says Ratonel's fear that mother-and-son would be blocked by Vietnam's immigration department was "confirmed."
"This was confirmed when the family arrived in Vietnam last Sunday, March 16, 2014, with CEB personnel assisting them all the way from arrival until immigration. The Palileo family presented the passport in question to Saigon immigration. However, it was only after they presented the replacement (new) passport given them by the Department of Foreign Affairs that they were allowed entry."
Ratonel has been reportedly suspended from work, but Cebu Pacific has not issued a confirmation.
"We recognize that in Mr. Ratonel’s discussion with the passenger’s mother, he may have been too firm in explaining the matter to the family. There is no excuse for this behavior and CEB has taken administrative action against him for this. Details of the administrative action are confidential as a matter of policy and cannot be made public."
This story first appeared on Coconuts Manila.