For those who have been reading my Twitter feed yesterday, many of you know the harrowing experience I went through involving Singapore Airlines and my passport. Though I’m sitting pretty at the Singapore Airlines lounge now at NAIA1, I can’t help but get minor anxiety attacks when my mind looks back at (literally) yesterday’s events and how one mishap can ruin a person’s excitement and demeanor completely. I didn’t get a single wink of sleep last night even if I was so exhausted from what transpired

Underwater camera case for my Lumix GF1 w/c I bought night before the flight.

Many of you know I am an avid diver and have been to places such as Palau (last year), and Tubbataha Reef. This year, it took me over SIX months of planning, saving, and hard-selling so I could top all my other dive trips with the ultimate one: Maldives! It is not a cheap trip, so I made sure to cover all my bases. It’s such a momentous trip for me, that for weeks on end I have been tweeting and FB-ing all about my plans, my packing, and even my dive gear.

Packing the night before yesterday…

My flight was supposed to be yesterday and I was so excited about the trip, I ignored random bad-vibes that were happening around me. But then THIS happens. Let me give you my recollection with as much information as I can share with you. I don’t want to include names because I don’t want to incriminate people, plus I am in the process of going legal, so I don’t want to over explain when not needed.I arrived at NAIA1 airport at around noon, and when I arrived at the Singapore Airlines check-in area, I saw some of my Maldives dive group already checked in. We exchanged pleasantries and got all excited about the upcoming flight.

I had a last minute urge to splurge so I asked the Customer Service Officer how much if I upgrade to Business Class. I figured, Go Big or Go Home. It’s a once in a lifetime trip and I would like to be comfortable while traveling. It was taking the ticketing office a while to respond, and I remembered saying “Ok, I’ll wait 3 minutes more to 12:50p. If they don’t call back, it’s not meant for me.”

At 12:50p, I still received no response re the upgrade cost, so I decided to forego it and just tough it out. It’s only an 8-hour trip total. I can handle that. I proceeded to check-in for my flight.

I was wondering why the actual check-in situation was taking so long. I notice the check-in agent and the Customer Supervisor convening at a corner, discussing something about my passport. At 1:15pm, the Customer Service Officer approached me and told me the situation. Or rather, showed me the CHUNK off of the biometric code portion of my passport.
She explained that as the check-in agent swiped my passport through the biometric machine to get the information, the passport got caught and a portion ripped out.

Apparently this is not the first time this has happened. My dad, upon speaking with him, said he spoke to a friend who has some people who could help in the situation. When President PNoy left for China with his congregation, DOTC Secretary Pete Prado’s passport also got ripped. He was allowed by immigration to board the plane, but after a few minutes he was asked to disembark as Immigrations could not clear him in China.

At 1:15p I tweeted: Oh dear…The passport swiper ate my passport! There’s a chunk out! SQ scrambling to call Male immigrations to make an exception for return

At first I was not concerned or even worried. I figured, it’s ok. Singapore Airlines caused this, I’m sure we just need a Certificate or Affidavit of Mutilation saying that Singapore Airlines accidentally caused this, while checking me in, and that if they can just let me fly. I thought it was that easy since we could always explain it to Immigrations here in Manila.

I even said with this on Twitter that “Even if this is serious, m surprisingly not worried. SQ calling DFA n Male now 2 expedite new passport for me. I have d BEST travel moments!” (1:18p)

Then at 1:38p, about 30 minutes before my flight departs, the Customer Service Officer informed me that Immigrations WILL NOT LET ME FLY because technically, my passport is tampered with hence making it invalid. I told her that I have spent a substantial amount on the trip, that there are 16 other people already checked in waiting for me to meet them at boarding, and THERE IS NO WAY THAT I AM NOT GOING TO MALDIVES. 

I suggested they rush a certification letter of some sorts that Immigrations would accept, call Male Immigrations to tell them of the situation and if they would clear me for entrance and also let me leave, and also call the Philippine Embassy in Maldives to make sure everything is coordinated. At this point, I felt a surge of panic in my being. I have been in many situations like this, all of which could be handled though proper communication, authentication, and explanation.

At 1:52p, she came back to me with the shock of my life: There is NO way Immigration will accept my passport in the tattered condition, even if it was not my fault, and even if Singapore Airlines admits it was their fault.

I broke down in front of Counter 60. Mind you, I am a particularly strong-willed person who doesn’t have a lot of EQ nor do I easily buck down on chick-flicks. But when I heard the devastating news that all my packing, saving, dreaming, and diving would not materialize after six months of having it top of mind, I crumbled. I literally just cried standing there and could not get a word out for the life of me.

Beside the monetary value of the trip, which would go completely to waste, I also had to choose between the Maldives dive trip, and an Italian wedding trip. I could not do both, said my mother. I chose Maldives because I knew this was the chance of a lifetime.

No amount of consolation from the Singapore Airlines staff could calm me down. Even if I was bawling buckets, and I tried to stop, I knew that I couldn’t just cry my way to make this situation turn my way.

I phoned my mom, in tears, and she thought someone had died. I just told her what had happened, and said: Mom, I know I have to do something, but I can’t think right now. Please, talk to them,” and I handed the phone to the Customer Service Officer.

After my mom, I had to inform my dive group, a total of 20+ now including wives and kids, that I would not be joining them on the trip. MY HEART SANK. I could not even muster up a straight sentence without breaking down in tears. I just told my dive master that I will try to get a passport or something, but it did not look hopeful.

Then the third person I called was my lawyer, because I could feel that no amount of apology, at that time, could compensate for the heavy, overwhelming feeling and overcast mood I was experiencing. It was as if a house had been dropped on my head. I couldn’t even stand straight and had to sit on the conveyor belt.

My dive group left at 2:10p, without me, and there again, another surge of tears flowed. I was heartbroken.

I called Mr. S, at that point, and told him that I cannot be alone right now and I needed someone to sit with me. He immediately dropped his work for the day and rushed to the airport to meet me at the Singapore Airlines Office above the departure area.

At that point, the Customer Service Officer, the agent who ripped my passport, and another agent, left for the DFA to explain to the Director the incident, and if it was possible to issue me a rush passport so I could leave the next day (today). I knew it was wishful thinking, so I didn’t bank on it much.

The Service Manager also spoke to me, and told me that this was not the first time this happened, where a passport got ripped while passing through the biometric. She said that they had informed MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) about the situation with the machine, but the machine is not defective. It is the handling of my passport that caused the rip and this series of unfortunate, and highly emotional, events.

My tears stopped after 2 hours, and at that time I had swollen, bloodshot eyes. The Service Manager told me that their service car would take me to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to see the status of the rush request.

I went with Mr. S to the DFA, where I met up with the 3 Singapore Airlines staff who were involved. I also spoke to the Director of the DFA and was so fortunate that he understood the predicament Singapore Airlines was in and approved a rush issuance of a new passport. It was great news, but somehow my heart hardly skipped a beat. I was already dead tired, exhausted and out of my psyche.

I would like to further complain about the fact that my new passport photo, which I now have to live with for the next 5 years, is all bloodshot eyes, failed attempt at a smile, and crappy hair. But that’s the least of my concerns now.

At 6:43p I returned to NAIA1 to get my bags. Singapore Airlines assured me that I would have a flight (today) and that they will speak to me regarding the incident. I was requesting an incident report be given to me before I left, but they assured me that they wouldn’t deny anything and they would really try to make it up to me.

I thanked them for their assistance in procuring me a brand new passport so I could fly today, but even with that, I was so harrowed that I couldn’t sleep straight last night. Maybe I slept for 2 hours, but I would hurriedly wake up to find myself on the verge of tears again, when I recall how I just crumbled there, in front of everyone at the airport, when I heard the bad news.

I thought all the bad vibes was past me and this is a new day, THEN this guy, who is affiliated with Singapore Airlines, tweets me this message, and it gets my blood boiling again. REALLY? It’s Male Airport I should be mad about? You know, before you go all PR and publicist on me… KNOW THE FACTS are review the issue completely before you make a remark as ignorant as that. I don’t have hate for Singapore Airlines, and I definitely should NOT HATE against Male airport if they don’t think my RIPPED PASSPORT which was caused my SINGAPORE AIRLINES is valid anymore.What a way to start my day off on a more emotional state.

At 10:46am today. This is what I got on Twitter.

So now, I’m waiting for my flight, and I’m also waiting for my incident report alongside a letter from the General Manager which they mentioned I would receive before I fly. They have upgraded me to Business Class and I appreciate the gesture, but it does not relieve me of my anxiety whenever I think about the shit that happened yesterday, in a span of 7 hours.

I am no stranger to airline incidents, and have had my fare share of travel adventures that I should be able to separate emotions from the facts. But I surprised myself, my mother and a lot of people when I told them I bawled myself to almost passing out.

It’s not the flight that I cared about, it’s all the preparations, build-up and excitement I had for the past 6 months, that just crumbled like feta cheese after hearing the words: Immigrations won’t let you fly. I’m even tearing up as I finish this post. My day was ruined by the thought of not being able do go to Maldives, plus all the hassles that occurred in those 7 hours of drama alongside all my logistical plans in Maldives were wasted for a day. All the activities I had planned in Maldives today are now up in the air even if it was fully paid for since I missed my original flight.

I hope that this is the end of my negative experience with Singapore Airlines, because even now, with less than an hour to go til my flight, I can’t even get excited for Maldives. I’m hoping it’s really as spectacular as  the photos indicate so I could be able to average out the lowest of lows that I felt, with the high of diving.

I would like to note that all throughout the process, the Customer Service and the check-in agents of Singapore Airlines were nothing but helpful and courteous and assisted me with the procurement of my new passport. For that, I thank them sincerely and appreciate their efforts. I have no complaints or negative things to say about their service, since it was excellent, given the situation.

But that’s beside the point.  Even today, as I wait for my flight, I can’t erase this sour mood I have. This wouldn’t have even happened if some caution was exercised in handling my passport.What do you think readers?