The perils of travelling

By Benel P. Lagua Benel P. Lagua

“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.” – Chinese Proverb

Travelling is enriching one’s self. More than knowing the world through its vast and varying culture, exploring is one way to appreciate nature and acknowledge the existence of an intelligent creator. In a previous article, I discussed travel planning woes. From our pre-travel travails, let’s move on to the actual travel perils.

The most common complaint of air travelers remains to be wasting countless hours in the airport for a delayed flight. And how many brainy Filipinos used that as an inspiration for their travel “hugots” like this one – “ang flight parang pag-ibig natin akala ko delayed lang ‘yun pala cancelled na.”

The worst-case scenario is for your flight to be deviated or cancelled. I cannot count how many delayed flights I have been through in my lifetime. In a recent vacation though, we waited for three hours on the plane before being informed of the need to change carrier due to mechanical defects. But because we could not get to our connection on time, the airline shifted us to the more expensive direct flight. Certainly, some delays, re-routing or cancellations happen for valid reasons like bad weather or safety issues but to experience it on a regular basis is a different story.

Some airlines are considerate enough to offer compensation for the inconvenience it causedthrough a free meal, a hotel stay or for the lucky ones, a round trip free flight. Yet this is not an excuse to be lax with the air travel service provided. The sad part is for this scenario to be accepted as the new norm. For the Philippines, it is a poor reflection of the pejorative Filipino culture “Filipino time” – Filipinos are always late.

Another hall of famer in travel risk is losing your luggage. In one of my visits to Atlanta, my baggage did not arrive with my flight. I was disturbed but my sister told me not to panic as the airlines have ways to find them. True enough, later in the day we were informed it was loaded in the next flight and the airline even had the luggage delivered to my sister’s house.

In one trip to China, I was checking in for my trip back home when the counter girl said my passport was torn and I had to go to the nearest Philippine embassy to fix my document. I was dumbfounded knowing fully well it was intact when I got to the airport. For a few tense minutes, I had to check all my belongings and ponder what I would do next in a country where there were very clear language barriers. Eventually, the check-in attendant discovered the “torn piece” and she apologised for her carelessness in swiping my passport.

In another business trip to Washington, DC, we were already on the plane when it was announced that all flights would be cancelled due to inclement weather. Because it was a force majeure, the airline had no obligation to provide free accommodation to passengers. And the traveler had to find the next booking available. It was night time and re-booking could only be done the following morning. Most international travelers on domestic connection had no choice but to retrieve their baggages and stay overnight in the airport. I had to do my best impersonation of Tom Hanks’ “The Terminal” in the airport, sleeping near the counter so I am first in line for next day’s booking. The problem was there were a hundred other people taking the same approach.

Now despite all these, each of us will still unleash the travel spirit inside of us. These perils, although disappointing, provide spice and seasoning to the adventurers’ journey.

(Benel D. Lagua is Executive Vice President at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.)