Bureau of Immigration, Philippines — Consumer travel companies don't give a ### about travelers!
Can anyone help me? I'm an American citizen and I tried leaving the Philippines on Sunday, but immigration stopped me. They said my temporary visitor visa which allowed me to stay up until 10/20/2007 also meant that I could not leave without the permission of the Bureau of Immigration. The duty officer wouldn't do anything to help, but instructed me talk to his supervisor. The supervisor said I could leave by writing a letter to the commissioner that I wanted to revoke my visa. He said I'd have to pay a penalty and an extortion fee of 2500PP to him. After arguing that a bribe was unnecessary, I realized it was. We went to the cashier to pay the fines. But the duty officer, who was in the same area as the cashier, came out and told his supervisor that he wouldn't allow it. But it wasn't because their was a problem with the fines/bribe. He said that they could get fired and then ask if I was a lawyer. This was because I had asked him earlier if he knew the telephone number of the US Embassy in Manila. After talking together the supervisor then asked for $2500. I said I didn't have that kind of cash. He said he couldn't let his boss process the revocation of my visa. They told me I'd have to go to BI and get a clearance to leave the Philippines.
Hold on, this wasn't even the worse part.
So, we had our baggage offloaded from the plane, with just a few minutes to spare. We had talked with immigration for almost 3 hours. I called the airline and they were completely unsympathetic, I explained what had happened. They wanted $100 as a cancellation fee before booking my flights. I didn't know when I'd get the clearance from BI. So, I said I'd call back.
Well, BI wasn't difficult. Just 2120pp in fines, a 500 express fee, and a 500 mandatory extortion fee and I had the appropriate documentation to leave. The very nice person at BI who processed the paperwork said I just didn't communicate effectively with the immigration duty officer - he would have accepted far less, but that was his way of just increasing the stakes so that paying a couple hundred USD wouldn't feel so bad. I just needed to negotiate, instead of saying I didn't have the money.
I called back the airline and they now wanted $150 to move my flight to Monday evening. Great, got jacked at BI and now with Continental Airlines. They only had 1st class on 1 of my 4 legs, hiking the flight to $1700 to $4100. I asked for some consideration. The agent talked with a supervisor. They said too bad they weren't going to help. Then I asked for a waiver of the $150. No help. Two supervisors later and about $25 in IDD charges and I was beaten to a pulp by their insensitivity. They just didn't give a crap. I now had to decide if I could afford being [censored]ed by BI and Continetal.
Hold on, this gets worse.
When I called back they would only get me on a Wednesday evening flight.
So, I had to reschedule my car rentals, intra-island flights, and hotel arrangements in Hawaii. Thrify.com was fantastic. Went online and cancelled and rescheduled my cars. Now it gets bloody. Hawaiian Air doesn't allow you to change online, you have to call. OK, I called. After 4 attempts and waiting on hold for close to an hour - 25usd. I almost gave up. But they finally answered. $80 to change one flight, which costs $78. The agent was in the Philippines, just a few miles from me. I was paying 42cents a minute and she wanted to talk about the weather. I asked for help with the change fee. She said now. Her supervisor said no. This after explaining why I didn't make my flight. They just didn't care.
Hawaiian Air was bad, but the hotels were worse. In Honolulu the Aqua Marina, where we were to stay 5/6-5/8, wouldn't budge on charging us fully; even though we wouldn't be in Hawaii until 5/9. They couldn't care less about our distress. They had me call someone named Rene to follow-up and plead some more. Four times I called, they took forever NOT to find her. They wouldn't waived the cancellation penalty.
Then there was Expedia.com. I booked a 5 day stay in the ResortQuest hotel in Kihei. Expedia's agent and supervisor would not waive the cancellation fees. They would book me in a mountain view for the same price for 3 days and charge me a 2 day cancellation fee. They did say they'd check with ResortQuest to see if they would waive the cancellation fee. NOPE. They stood firm also. I called numerous times, costing me 20usd.
I've got to admit each and everyone of these consumer travel companies couldn't give a ### about travelers in distress. Frankly, they read from scripts, reading me the riot act that I needed to call earlier. This was consistent 2 managers up. Only one said she was sympathetic to my situation, the one in the Philippines. Then she said she'd still have to charge me $80 to change a $78 flight. There were so many times that I just wanted to scream at these monsters, but I didn't. They are crass, unsympathetic, money grubbing crap holes. If there is anything that you think I can do to recoup my money - then please let me know. Not interested in making them feel like they made me feel, like a 2x, 3x, 4x loser; but it would be nice if I could have talked to one person who really cared, understood my situation, and gave just a little travel mercy.
Thanks for listening,