Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya on Tuesday brushed aside Cebu Pacific’s claims that “congestion” caused the flight delays and cancelations 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 franchise if warranted.
Jorenz Tañada, Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs, said in a text message that they will cooperate with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the conduct of the investigation.
Cebu Pacific “is due to submit a report to the CAB tomorrow (Wednesday) regarding our operations last December 24 to 26. The report was required by the CAB panel during the hearing on December 29. We will cooperate with the DOTC and the CAB to address the concerns and issues of the flying public,” Tañada added.
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.
“The flying public deserves much better service than that. We sympathize with those who lost precious hours with their families and loved ones on Christmas, and we will see to it that Cebu Pacific will answer for any possible mismanagement,” Abaya said.