PAL stops elderly Fil-Am with COPD from flying sans oxygen tank

By: Luisa Cabato - | January 27,2024 - 06:09 PM

PAL stops elderly Fil-Am with COPD from flying sans oxygen tank

Philippine Airlines (PAL) has stopped an elderly Filipino-American woman with COPD from flying back to the United States without a portable oxygen tank. PAL stressed it cannot waive the oxygen requirement as it gives importance to the safe and comfortable travel of its passengers. stock images

MANILA, Philippines — Flag carrier Philippine Airlines  stopped an elderly Filipino-American woman from flying back to the United States due to her medical condition, a US media report said.

Jovita Domingo, 86, was not allowed to board a PAL flight despite showing a doctor’s certificatioon saying she was “fit to travel by air” and that there was “no need for [her to have an] oxygen support”, according to a report from ABC7 News Bay Area aired on January 24 (US time). Domingo is said to be suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.

The report said Domingo went to the Philippines in September 2023 to visit her relatives. She booked a December 5 flight to San Francisco to return to his family in Florida but was eventually denied boarding permissions by the airline as she did not bring with her a portable oxygen tank.

In an interview with ABC7, Domingo’s son, Mosses, said they could neither afford the portable oxygen tank, which costs $3,100 (around P174,000) nor book another return flight.

“She’s upset, she cries sometimes. She just wants to come home, I want her to come home, we all want her to come home,” he said.

In a letter shown in the ABC7 report, a doctor from Pittsburgh called the airline’s refusal to let Domingo fly “unbelievable.”

ABC7 said they contacted the Philippines’ flag carrier for comment on the matter. When it did not get a reply from the airline, it then contacted Rep. Mark DeSaulnier from California’s 10th Congressional District, the Philippine consulate in the US, and the US Department of Transportation for assistance.

Initially, the report said the Philippines’ flag carrier issued “travel credits” for Domingo’s unused plane ticket. Eventually, an airline representative called Mosses and told him that they would give them a refund.

The report further noted that the US Transportation Department is reviewing whether PAL committed a violation or discrimination against Domingo.

In a statement on January 25, PAL said the decision to not allow Domingo to fly “stems from a comprehensive review conducted by our aviation medical team.”

“While we acknowledge and respect the assessments provided by her personal physicians, our medical experts – who specialize in aviation medicine – take into consideration various factors unique to air travel, including concerns over variations in cabin air pressure and oxygen levels that occur once an aircraft is airborne. These may further complicate Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), particularly if a patient has other co-morbidities as confirmed by Ms. Domingo’s submitted medical certificates and laboratory results.”

PAL explained that a portable oxygen device would help Domingo withstand difficulties of a long-distance flight from Manila to San Francisco and provide vital support in the event of a sudden emergency while in transit.

“Our medical team only had Ms. Domingo’s health and wellbeing in mind when they concluded that she could travel safely on a flight if she has the proper medical equipment – in the form of oxygen support – on board,” it noted. “In the interests of safety and Ms. Domingo’s welfare, we cannot waive the oxygen requirement as determined by our medical experts.”

PAL said that “as a gesture of goodwill,” it would provide Domingo the inflight oxygen service and corresponding additional seat to accommodate the equipment free of charge. It also said that Domingo would be accommodated on its PR104 flight from Manila to San Francisco with the necessary medical support at no additional cost to her or her family.

“This decision is made in the spirit of goodwill and support for her situation and does not represent a change in our policy regarding the necessity of inflight oxygen for our passenger’s safety,” the airline firm, however, pointed out.


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TAGS: elderly woman, oxygen tank, Philippine Airlines, United States

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