Cebu Pacific, Philippine’s largest low-cost carrier, has been fined P52 million by the Philippine government after its recent holiday disaster that saw hundreds of flights cancelled or delayed over a span of several days during the peak travel period.
According to Victor Luciano of the Civil Aeronautics Board, Cebu Pacific was found in violation of its certificate of public convenience and necessity. The airline was fined based on the 10,400 passengers that were affected by the operational glitches from December 23 to 26. This represents a P5,000 fine for each affected passenger as directed under the Civil Aeronautics Act of the Philippines, which served as the basis of the penalty.
“After considering all available data and arguments, the Board concluded that the main culprit was Cebu Pacific’s operational lapses and mishandling of passengers,” said Carmelo Arcilla, Executive Director of the Civil Aeronautics Board. “The Board also required Cebu Pacific to establish and maintain appropriate service standards for all its personnel, organic, and out-sourced, especially those manning the check-in counters.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and Manila International Airport Authority support the decision of the Civil Aeronautics Board, agreeing that Cebu Pacific’s management is to blame. “They are in public service and high absenteeism is not a reason for flight delays and cancellations,” said Luciano. “The airline is being irresponsible and it should not happen again.”
However, Cebu Pacific refuses to accept the blame, insisting that the airport chaos was due to congestion and bad weather. In a statement released following the issuance of the fine by the Civil Aeronautics Board, Cebu Pacific stated, “We have received CAB Resolution No. 4, and we are currently in the process of reviewing the document, and its attendant legal ramifications,” said Cebu Pacific. “We note that there may be some matters of fact requiring clarification, and are evaluating all our options accordingly.
Between December 24 and 26, Cebu Pacific cancelled 20 flights and delayed another 288 at NAIA Terminal 3 over the busy Christmas period, which stranded thousands of travellers. The Civil Aeronautics Board says that Cebu Pacific will have the opportunity to appeal the penalty.
However, Cebu Pacific is earning little sympathy from lawmakers, workers, or the travelling public. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines blamed the December woes on outsourcing and the hiring of contractual workers, which led to a breakdown in Cebu Pacific’s service.
Unfortunately for passengers, the fine that is being imposed on Cebu Pacific appears to be headed for the national treasury, rather than as compensation for passengers. Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla was quoted as stating that the fine would go to the national treasury in spite of the passenger complaints.
Some lawmakers believe that the Civil Aeronautics Board is not doing enough to protect passengers. Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani said that Cebu Pacific’s holiday blunder is becoming an all too common occurrence, and that many airlines are guilty of causing passenger inconvenience by cancelling flights, delaying departures and arrivals, or charging excessive rebooking fees and penalties.