Cebu Pacific: Taking stock of itself

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For all of the world’s big airlines, even the smallest accidents are considered very serious matters. This is because a bad scenario can easily become worse, and a worse scenario can turn into the worst possible one: the loss of life.

For Cebu Pacific, two accidents that happened within a week have had regular flyers asking: What, if anything, is happening to this airline?

There are suggestions that the overall service of the country’s second flag carrier could be deteriorating. Either its personnel are demoralized or need retraining or are losing their edge. Or, the planes themselves are not being properly maintained, at least to the expected world-class standards.

Profitability is probably not an issue.

Why else would the airline set up a long-haul operations division with plans of purchasing or leasing new aircraft?

Very recently, Cebu Pacific received its first wide-body aircraft, the 436-seater Airbus A330-300. At the same time, the Gokongwei family-controlled airline is mulling the purchase of a new Airbus A350.

Such huge expenditures indicate that the company wants to service more international destinations because of the better profit margins that they offer.

This is their right. But at the same time, the airline should now take stock of itself and ask if its planned expansion is happening at the right time. It goes without saying that before Cebu Pacific takes to the international skies, it must first make sure that everything is running smoothly in its own backyard.

This means finding out what happened in the two accidents and making doubly and triply sure such accidents do not happen again. God forbid that a third should occur any time soon. If it did the reputation of the airline would be totally shot.

Taking stock of itself also means that Cebu Pacific may have to reconsider its grand plans of becoming a truly global player, and review its national operations first. The twin accidents may be considered as a warning that not all is well with its nationwide service.

The airline has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Few considered Cebu Pacific would pose a serious challenge to Philippine Airlines, but it did. Against all odds, the airline reached the point when it is now competing with PAL on an even keel.

The big winners are, of course, the country’s air travelers. Competition between the two big players, plus the handful of smaller airlines, has resulted in lower fares because of the creative promos that they all come up with.

Still, lower fares is not the only factor in any airline’s success. Or failure. It is also important that planes take off and land on time, all the time. The service of both ground and air crews are also important for paying passengers.

Above all, safety is paramount. No one will want to fly on an airline that misses runways or hits airport lights, no matter how inexpensive the fare.

Think before you speak, sirs
The suggestion by one congressman to suspend all Cebu Pacific flights is clearly a case of shooting from the hip. There was not much thought placed on it, which only told us the consequences of such an action were not considered. At least not seriously.

Unfortunately, some quarters are supportive of such a rash move. They do not consider that doing so would do more harm than good.

For one, Cebu Pacific is the country’s second flag carrier. The airline flies thousands of travelers locally and internationally on a daily basis. Abruptly stopping the airline’s flights would have a serious effect on the economy.

For another, the two recent accidents involving Cebu Pacific did not indicate that there was anything wrong with the airplanes themselves. In all probability, it was pilot error that was the primary cause in both.

Incidentally, no one was killed or seriously hurt in either incident.

When a Cebu Pacific plane crashed many years ago, the airline itself voluntarily suspended operations to make sure mechanical problems were not to blame for the tragedy.

The proper step to take now would be to get to the bottom of both accidents. If the pilots involved were indeed at fault, they need to take medical exams to determine if they are still capable of flying. If what happened were due to circumstances beyond their control, then the authorities should let the incidents pass.

The important thing is to guarantee the safety of passengers at all times.

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