86-year-old Bay Area woman with disability stuck in Philippines due to airline policy

Philippine Airlines did not allow her to fly unless she had a portable oxygen machine for her illness -- which costs $3,100.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Disabled Bay Area woman stuck in Philippines due to airline policy
An 86-year old Bay Area woman can't fly back home due to Philippine Airlines' policy that requires her a portable oxygen machine for her disability.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An 86-year old disabled East Bay woman has been stuck in the Philippines, trying to get home to her son since early Dec. but can't fly due to an airline policy. Her son came to ABC7 asking for help.

Moses Domingo sits inside his 86-year-old mother Jovita's Bay Point Home. And it's clear how big a role religion plays in her life.

"She's very devoutly faithful, she prays her heart out - that's the best way to put it," smiles Moses.

Jovita is currently relying on that faith, hoping she and her only son will be reunited again soon after a nearly two month separation.

"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 exclaims.

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Jovita had gone to visit family in the Philippines last Sept. and booked a flight back to the Bay Area for Dec. 5 on Philippine Air, also known as PAL.

But when she disclosed her COPD or "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease" on a medical form, the airline did not allow her to fly unless she had a portable oxygen machine.

"Suddenly, we learn it's $3,100 to get the portable oxygen concentrator," Moses says.

So Jovita made doctor's appointments to prove she was healthy enough to fly. Here's a note from a doctor in Palawan which clearly indicates she is "fit to travel" and there is "no need for oxygen support." Another letter from a doctor in Pittsburg who called it "unbelievable" the airline wouldn't permit her to fly.

But even then, no go.

"Believe the doctors! They say she's good to fly, she's good to fly!" says Moses, at his wits end.

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The airline issued Jovita a travel credit instead which still didn't solve how Jovita would get back to the Bay Area if PAL still required her to bring an oxygen tank on board.

Moses says because of financial hardships, there was no way his mother could afford an oxygen tank, or to pay for another flight on another airline.

When our inquiries to Philippine Airlines did not yield results, we contacted Congressman Mark DeSaulnier's office, the Philippine Consulate and the Department of Transportation.

All reached out to PAL.

So after months of not getting anywhere, late Monday night, Moses got a voicemail.

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"Hello this is Spencer from Philippine Air," it began. The employee of PAL explained they could offer to extend Jovita's travel credit or alternatively refund his mom.

Because of the time zone difference, Moses is still waiting to connect with PAL to work out the details. However, this still doesn't solve the problem of getting his mom back if airline policy won't allow her to fly with her medical condition.

For Moses, at least it's a start.

"It's very encouraging, I hope this will get my mom home sooner than later," he says.

In an email to Moses, the DOT says they're reviewing the situation to see if the Air Carrier Access Act was violated, and determine if Jovita was discriminated against for her disability.

ABC7 News has reached out to a number of airlines to see if they can accommodate Jovita.

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