THE Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) penalized budget carrier Cebu Pacific with a fine of P52 million for its botched handling of passengers from December 23 to 26 last year.
“After considering all available data and arguments, the Board concluded that the main culprit was Cebu Pacific’s operational lapses and mishandling of passengers. The Board therefore issued a strong reprimand and imposed a fine against Cebu Pacific in the amount of P52,211,00,” CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said in a text message on Monday.
According to Arcilla, the Board “also required Cebu Pacific to establish and maintain appropriate service standards for all its personnel, organic and outsourced, especially those manning the check-in counters.”
He said the fine was based on a finding by the Board “that Cebu Pacific’s operational lapses and passenger mishandling constitutes a breach of the basic condition of its Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, i.e., to provide proper, suitable, convenient, safe, adequate and reliable air transportation services.”
The CAB Board on Monday heard the issue pertaining to Cebu Pacific’s botched handling of passengers over the Christmas holidays last year. The hearing was attended by Cebu Pacific representatives, T3 manager Octavio Lina and MIAA assistant general manager Ricardo Medalla.
Cebu Pacific clung to its arguments that while it committed lapses in the handling of passengers, the main contributory factor to the disruption was air traffic congestion and terminal infrastructure deficiencies.
On January 6, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya brushed aside Cebu Pacific’s claims that “congestion” caused the flight delays and cancellations during the Christmas rush, noting that “tardiness” should be blamed for the mess.
“Six flights arrived late at NAIA [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] in the early morning of December 24 alone. There was no congestion yet at the time. These incidents of tardiness caused a domino effect of delays throughout the rest of the day. And yet Cebu Pacific claims that it was congestion that caused the mess,” Abaya said.
“Worse, in the morning of December 26, only two check-in counters for domestic flights were open. It was not until 11 a.m. that more counters were opened, after CAB [Civil Aeronautics Board] and MIAA [Manila International Airport Authority] intervened,” he added.
The transportation and communications chief leads a government panel investigating widespread complaints against the airline.
Because he doubted the carrier’s explanations, the panel was prompted to gather its own data such as the number of dislocated passengers, routes affected and total capacity versus seats sold and flown to determine overbooking.
“What is clear from the panel’s initial report is that Cebu Pacific had an appalling number of delayed flights from December 24 to 26. Cebu Pacific is blaming air traffic congestion, but this does not appear to be supported by the facts,” Abaya said.
The panel is composed of the CAB, MIAA and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
The CAB has authority to impose fines and suspensions and even to revoke a franchise if warranted.
Earlier, Jorenz Tañada, Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs, said in a text message that they will cooperate with the DOTC in the conduct of the investigation.
Cebu Pacific submitted a report to the CAB on January 7 regarding their operations last December 24 to 26. The report was required by the CAB panel during the hearing on December 29.
Cebu Pacific said that the carrier will cooperate with the DOTC and the CAB to address the concerns and issues of the flying public.
Based on data submitted by the airline to the panel on December 29, Cebu Pacific had a total of 20 canceled flights and 288 delayed flights at the NAIA Terminal 3 from December 24 to 26.
Abaya assured that Cebu Pacific will answer for any possible mismanagement. Rosalie C. Periabras