By Wilnard Bacelonia
MANILA – A lawmaker vowed on Tuesday to look into reports of overbooking, offloading, and booking glitches by Cebu Pacific, saying these issues drive away tourists and inconvenience passengers.
After receiving such reports, Senator Nancy Binay said in a statement that she will file a resolution for a full inquiry on Cebu Pacific.
“For a family with kids in tow who have a confirmed booking, who are already at the airport at least four hours ahead of time, giving up sleep, negotiating the traffic, and enduring the long queues, only to be denied boarding and sent back home — that, for me, is unacceptable,” Binay said in a statement.
The government, she said, needs to step in to ensure transparency in the practice of overbooking by airlines as well as the strict implementation of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights, which allows air carriers to overbook certain flights and also states that offloading should be done in a voluntary manner.
Binay cited Section 10.1.b of the Department of Transportation and Communication – Department of Trade and Industry Joint Administrative Order No. 1 that states whenever a flight is overbooked, “the air carrier shall announce that the flight is overbooked and that it is looking for volunteers willing to give up their seats in exchange for air carrier compensation.”
“Sa dami ng mga reklamo ng mga pasahero, maiisip mo agad na parang napaka-hassle mag-travel sa Pilipinas lalung-lalo na kapag peak season. Siguro (Amid the many passenger complaints, you would think that traveling in the Philippines, especially during peak seasons, is a hassle. Maybe), during peak periods like Holy Week, Christmas season and during summer, we can implement a ban on overbooking in domestic and international flights — and should there be no-show passengers — airlines can be transparent and offer the available seats to ‘chance passengers’ just like the usual practice,” Binay pointed out.
“We have to uphold public convenience and service. Amid the prevailing public outrage against Cebu Pacific, we have to check if local airlines do observe the five percent allowable overbooking set by CAB [Civil Aeronautics Board],” she added.
Overbooking is a deliberate industry-wide business practice where airlines are allowed to sell 10 percent more tickets than the number of seats available for a particular flight.
From the industry standard of 10 percent, the CAB has set a five percent allowable overbooking to optimize utility and avoid empty seats.
Binay said that with Cebu Pacific, overbooking and offloading have always been a “never-ending talking point” including booking glitches and a number of public meltdowns.
“Traveling in the Philippines has become incredibly frustrating. It’s no longer a pleasant experience. Sobrang dami na actually ng mga issue sa atin dito sa Pilipinas (There are a lot of issues here in the Philippines) which have not only inconvenienced local and foreign passengers but have also drove away tourists. Any bad experience just wipes out the nice memories of a good holiday and a great time in the Philippines,” she stressed.
Aside from the bad airline experiences, Binay said passengers also deal with technical and personnel-driven fiascos of epic proportions such as long queues, flight delays and cancellations, ground traffic, lost luggage, mobile app glitches, unnecessary security checks, lengthy immigration interviews, and airport operation issues, among others.
“We understand what budget travelling is like, and the promos that go with it. Whether or not you paid piso (a peso) or the regular fare, it’s not about the price. It’s actually the case of the airline being truthful, upfront and transparent to its customers and passengers. Hindi ‘yung kung anu-anong dahilan ang sasabihin sa pasehero at basta na lamang iiwanan sa ere (Not telling the passengers a lot of reasons and leave them hanging),” the lawmaker noted.
She added that being offloaded without alternative flight options not only has a direct impact on someone’s travel plans but also reflects how airlines treat customers and tourists.
Cebu Pacific Airlines recently announced its “Super Pass” sale which crashed its website due to overwhelming online bookings.
The promo, which ran from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 31, sold one-way vouchers for PHP99 each, inclusive of surcharges and other fees.
Each voucher can be used as payment for basic fare in select flights.
Through their Facebook page, the budget airline posted on March 31 their apologies to their customers.
“PASSensya. We are sorry for any inconvenience you may have experienced while booking with us today, and we truly appreciate your continued patronage. Once volume normalizes in the next 24 hours, we will be happy to assist you with your concerns through m.me/cebupacificair,” the post read. (PNA)