EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area woman stuck in Philippines due to airline dispute reunites with son at SFO

After our story aired, PAL made a "gesture of goodwill" to provide Jovita with free in-flight oxygen and to cover other fees.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024
EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area woman stuck abroad due to airline policy back home
After being stuck in the Philippines due to a disability dispute with an airline, a Bay Area woman returned home with the help from ABC7 News.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After nearly two months, an 86-year-old Bay Area woman reunited with her only son at SFO. The pair had been separated because of an airline policy that left the elderly woman stuck in the Philippines.

Moses Domingo paces back and forth at the arrivals terminal of SFO, waiting for his mother to arrive on Philippine Airlines flight 104 on Tuesday night.

"I don't see her, a part of me won't think it's real until I see that's her." He says nervously.

This anticipation has been building since Dec. 5 - the day his mother Jovita Domingo was supposed to fly back to the Bay Area from Manila. Instead, she was denied because of the COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

PREVIOUS STORY: 86-year-old Bay Area woman with disability 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.

For over 45 minutes, Moses waits, eagerly wondering if the next wheelchair-bound passenger is his mother.

Suddenly, a woman in a flowered pattern dress arrives, pushed by an airline crew member.

"Hi, oh my God - hello!" beams Moses.

Even from beneath a face mask it's clear - Jovita is thrilled to be with her son once more.

"I'm so happy!" She exclaims, as the tears fog up her glasses. "I thought I was going to die there."

Earlier this month, we shared with ABC7 News viewers how Jovita was unable to return to the Bay Area after visiting family in the Philippines last fall.

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"She's upset, she cries sometimes when I talk to her her on the phone," said Moses at the time.

The airline, also known as PAL said because of her medical condition, the only way to fly back to California would be with the aid of an on-board oxygen machine. The Domingos say the cost would have been over $3,000 - money they do not have.

Jovita's doctors even wrote letters, stating she was healthy enough to fly and did not need oxygen.

Moses says they couldn't get a refund either and without it, couldn't buy a ticket on another airline.

Jovita was stuck, and Moses was desperate. He described his situation as "utter turmoil, a ship running into a cliff."

We reached out to the Philippine Consulate, the Department of Transportation, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier and the airline itself. After our story aired, the Domingos received an email from PAL saying they stand firm with their medical policy but made a "gesture of goodwill" to provide Jovita with free in-flight oxygen and to cover any additional fees.

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A DOT spokesperson tells me the airline can indeed conduct their own medical review, separate from one performed by a passenger's own doctors and choose to deny travel.

The DOT also says in cases like this the airline "must provide the passenger with a refund... and an explanation in writing within 10 calendar days of the refusal."

The DOT is still investigating what happened in the Domingo case to determine if it violated the Air Carrier Access Act.

They recommend that if any passenger has a time-sensitive air travel disability-related concern, they can call the department's disability hotline at 1-800-778-4838 for assistance.

Complaints can also be filed with the Department here.

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As for now, Jovita and Moses are just looking forward to spending time together.

"My mom she means the world to me," said Moses with moist eyes.

Jovita, who prays every single day, thanks God and the help of those who got the airline's attention and helped bring her home.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

Moses has started a GoFundMe to help his mom, so she can live a less stressful life after going through this ordeal. To make a donation, click here.

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