Cebu Pacific: Proud to be Unfare or Unfair?

10 01 2009

Just after the media announced the official holidays for 2009, I got an email and text message from Cebu Pacific informing about its all-time Zero Fare Promo with seat sale starting January 8 to 14 for travel period February 1 to March 31.  The Go Lite Package (no check-in luggage) is also available for Php500 all-in.  Travelling light has always been giving me a dilemma.  As far as I can recall, I’ve traveled with a handcarry and shoulder bags only on few occasions – usually during overnight planning conferences (by land travel) but on a 3-day trip… never!  Haven’t tried the Go Lite Package yet and not sure if there will ever be a time.   As for its Zero Fare Promo, I can say that I was one of the pioneer customers and for me, service at that time was still satisfactory or above average. 

Cebu Pacific

Last year, I was able to go on budget travel twice (local and international) thru Cebu Pacific but my experiences were disappointing especially that domestic trip.  I swore at the airport that I will bring to the airline management’s attention our predicament but to-date I hadn’t made a move… until this post. 

The day before our scheduled trip last August, I called up Cebu Pacific to check the current status of its newly transferred operation at the NAIA Terminal 3 because I got this email about the horrible and unfortunate (as the passengers of Flight No. 5J 539 described it) incident last August 1.  According to the customer service staff, operation is going smoothly, so that was a relief.  My share of plight occured during check-in at the Laoag Int’l. Airport on August 25 (Monday) at 7:15 p.m.for our return flight to Manila.  We were supposed to check in before 7:10 p.m. but came in 5 minutes late.  At the counter, the airline staff rejected me, my colleague and her son for the sole reason that there was an overbooking. An overbooking?  How can that be?  So even if you purchased your ticket months ahead, you’re not assured of “flying”.  According to the staff, all airlines are allowed to overbook up to 10% of the capacity (need to confirm this).  Our next question was, what if all showed up.  That’s the time they will offer some compensatory service like free lodging (and meals I assume).  No! We can no longer afford to stay for one more night in Laoag.  I told the guy that I don’t have an extra undergarment and at that hour, where can we find an accommodation.  But of course, we can always return to our friend’s house where we stayed at upon arrival.  But the next concern was, there was no flight until Wednesday so that means we need to stay for another 2 days.  My approved leave was for Monday only.  Not for 3 days… nah!  And the attending staff couldn’t offer any compensatory service.  That worsen our irate feelings.  He told us that only those who checked-in within the prescribed period will be given compensatory service.  We explained that we were only 5 minutes late.  What about their usual delayed flights?  Last Friday, the delay was more than 30 minutes and we can’t question that?  We were also informed that we can’t request fare refund since it was a promo fare but we can rebook it for the same destination.  At that moment, we got to accept the consequences for being late.  We contacted our friend who drove us to the airport to bring us to the Partas Bus Station.  Fortunately, we were able to catch the last trip (8:45 p.m.) to Pasay Terminal.  No other option but to take the 10-hour land trip back to Manila with all our baggages of pasalubong items.  Our consolation was – it was a night trip so that means lesser traffic. About the overbooking issue – we were not convinced with it…  Yesterday, I’ve spoken with my travel agent of 4 years and she told me that she’s not aware of that overbooking allowance for airlines. 

My succeeding trip was in Singapore in October with another friend.  As usual, the flight was delayed and we landed in Singapore’s Budget Terminal with the small Duty Free Shop selling liquors and some perfume items only.  That was unexpected.  My friend had some stuff to purchase… Why such discrimination my friend asked.  It didn’t occur to us that the budget terminal is situated in a separate location, no internal link.  You will have to take a shuttle bus to reach the Changi Airport (Terminal 1).   It didn’t end there.  To complete the story… our return flight to Manila was rescheduled about two hours later, 2:00 a.m. to be exact.  We were the only people in the waiting lounge and there was no comfortable place to snooze.  Poor Flight 5J 804 passengers!  

I didn’t bother to check the ongoing seat sale.  I just don’t feel traveling soon on a budget after the hassles and pains we had last year…. Noted also that its On Time Performance last December was only 62.7%, so what do you expect?  I didn’t mean to discourage anyone.  See for yourself! As for me, let’s see, maybe late this year? 

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