BY MORTZ C. ORTIGOZA
The first time I heard about the notoriety of Cebu Pacific (CP) for being late was in May 2012 when actress Claudine Barretto unleashed a tantrum at the two lady workers of CP at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-3 after the plane arrived there late and found out that two of her baggage have been left in Kalibo, Aklan. Her tantrum caught the empathy of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s columnist Ramon Tulfo who took photos of her as his future news against CP but instead of being lauded by Barretto’s then husband Raymart Santiago and a male friend they instead mauled Tulfo. The second time I heard about the airline’s tardiness was in June 2013 when I was in the middle of an animated conversation in a dinner tendered to me by then Region 11 Regional Manager John Celeste of the National Irrigation Administration at his huge staff house in Davao City.
“Pinsan (my mother is a Celeste), alis na ako. 7:30 Pm na, 9:55 Pm ang flight ko to Manila,” I told him.
|Cebu Pacific's Airbus 320 overshoots the runway in Davao City.|
“Wala iyan, kuwentuhan pa tayo. Laging late ng two hours iyang eroplano. Kain ka lang diyan ng isdang Davao na pinaluto ko sa cook ko para sa iyo,” he told me by pointing to me my favorite “kinilaw na tuna” with lots of slices of cucumber, a big roasted lapu-lapu, maya-maya, matambaka, and Whatchamacallit viands of a king already in Luzon for me to indulge.
But I had a “trauma” already being left twice by the plane, first when, five years ago, I was bound from Manila to Davao City, and the second one, two years ago, when I was destined from Davao City to Manila.
Susmariosep, I could not forget those additional prohibitive prices of rebooking my old tickets. I have to shell out a huge amount just to avail the next flight going out from where I was located.
When the NIA Regional Manager allowed me to leave an hour before my 9;55 Pm flight by calling his driver to whisk me to the airport, I, up close and personal, learned the notoriety of the plane not arriving on what the contracted time it says on the ticket
But I did not give a fuss about it probably because my bread basket was still elated by the gastronomic seafood delights complement by Celeste.
Cebu Pacific’s December 2014 NightmareBut Cebu Pacific gave me a comeuppance when I booked a round trip tickets last November for my December 23 and 26 departures from Manila to Davao and vice versa.
I and my son Nico should be availing the December 23’s Philippine Airlines flight but its first trip was 8 Am while Cebu Pacific would be departing at 3:45 Am. PAL fares difference then was only P500 higher than my Cebu’s P9000 round trip ticket.
“I’ll get Cebu Pacific’s 3:45 Am flight since I want to meet my brother for breakfast at the (Marco Polo) Hotel and be home in (the province of) Cotabato earlier since it’s a three hours drive from Davao City,” I told the personnel of the ticketing office in Dagupan City.
At 1:30 Am of December 23 I saw already the brewing chaos at Cebu’s NAIA’s Terminal -3 where there was a massive influx of passengers. Some of them were berating the guards at the main door because of the lack of baggage carts.
“Inu-unang binibigyan iyong mga passengers sa international flights, kasi nag kaka tip sila!,” an irate female passenger smarted.
Near the counters there was mammoth number of passengers shoving and jostling each other to reach several queues to submit their baggage to be weighted and hauled by the personnel at the plane’s belly.
I was nonchalant since I have still more hours left for my 3:45 Am flight.
Iba iyong may trauma na ng naiwanan ng eroplano, I left Dagupan City by land at 7:30 for my five hours aircon bus trip to Manila.
Davao City’s DepartureBut my Calvary started when I entered the departure lounge in Davao City last December 26 for my 5:45 Pm flight to Manila.
I was told that my flight would be arriving at 10:45 Pm since the sky in Manila were congested because of the inbound and outbound planes aggravated by the lone runway of the worst international airport in the world.
“Why 10:45 Pm, was that how congested the skies of Metro Manila that it took several hours for a returning plane to be backed in Davao to ferry us?,’” I posed to myself again.
Other passengers whose flights from Davao City to Manila that were scheduled at 6:45 Pm, 7:45 Pm, and 8:45 Pm have been berating the pitiful personnel of Cebu Pacific that man the counters of the gates.
At 8:30 Pm, we were fed by the airline with a piece of Jollibee’s Chicken Joy, rice, and mineral water.
“Kahit may Chicken Joy pa dito hinding hindi na ako sasakay sa Cebulok Pacific, la-os!” I jested with my quite amused fellow passengers who started to gorge their food to satiate their hunger as a result of waiting.
When the Airbus 320 arrived at 10;45 Pm we were asked , almost 200 passengers, to transfer at the PAL’s lounge. But hell broke loose there as some passengers were chiding the same sorry CP’s personnel why it took an hour for the jet to be refueled by a tanker full of hi-octane gas.
“Akala ko state –of-the art na itong Airbus niyo, bakit antagal naman mahigit isang oras na. Baka mi diperensiya ang eroplano na iyan!”.
When I heard diperensiya or defect cold chills ran on my back. “Ok lang na ipatulak ang lintik na eroplano para mag-start dahil sira ang karburador, wag naman yong may defect. Marami pa akong gagawin sa buhay,” I whispered to a fellow passenger who became apprehensive, too!
To make the long story short since my allocation in this column is 1000 words only; we departed at 11:45 Pm, yes Virginia another one hour late or a total of SIX HOURS behind the contracted schedule, and arrived in Manila at 1:30 Am the following day.
I just learned on the morning TV news that December 26 was the “Day of Infamy” created by the incompetence and negligence of Cebu Pacific where, according to complaints and critics, it overbooked its passengers despite its limited commercial jets that resulted to the stranded mayhem at NAIA-3.
Another accusation, the news said, was the series of cancellation of the airline’s flights that made Terminal -3 a hell-hole last December 26 and 27 and limited counters of Cebu Pacific to accommodate the swelling number of passengers as a result when management allowed many of their staff to have their vacation.
Allowing them to vacation in the middle of a peak season? My foot!
“They knew that some of their flights have been cancelled, some are delayed and all their flights are fully booked. They should put extra staff to handle the influx of passengers. Kesyo holidays they are allowing their staff to go on leave. Only in Cebu Pacific I heard this kind of alibi. I am working in a big airline in the Middle East during peak seasons, they are not allowing staff a day off,“ a reader of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s rues.
If PAL and Air Asia Zest have no stranded of passenger on December 26 and 27, would the Civil Aeronautics Bureau fine, penalize, or revoke the franchise of Cebu Pacific because of this incompetence and inefficiency?
Or would the CAB’s “apparatchiks” of Cebu Pacific cowered after the Gokongweis talk to them in private?.