We cannot give you accommodations. If only I could, I would’, she continued. “It is not our company’s policy to provide accommodations in situations like this.”’
WE have a letter from an irate reader who will remain anonymous. I have edited the letter for length. At any rate, it tells a story that has a bearing on tourism and it’s being “more fun in the Philippines”:
“On April 27, I had a confirmed ticket on Cebu Pacific from Dumaguete City to Manila. Check-in time was at 2:45 p.m., and since being in front of the line in the compact departure area meant that there was still a chance to get choice seats, I was there at 2:30. They started the check-in process at 2:45 and everything went on smoothly.
“A Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight was also scheduled that afternoon and we lazily watched as it boarded their passengers at 4:30 p.m. Our own boarding schedule was at 4:15 and characteristically, no one was in the slight bit concerned because these flights are usually late. The PAL plane stayed at the runway another 10 minutes before it finally took off for Manila.
“It was then that Cebu Pacific announced thru the public address system that our flight was cancelled.
“I have travelled extensively worldwide and have experienced situations when flights were cancelled. Invariably those flights were cancelled because of bad weather and it was quite decent of the respective airlines to issue us vouchers for transportation from and back to the airport, hotel accommodations, and food.
“It was in that mood that I went to see the Cebu Pacific front desk. The place was congested. It was full of people with a common expression in their faces. Everybody was frustrated, and mad. We were all frustrated because the flight was cancelled. There were people who had connecting flights that they will not make because ours was the last flight out of Dumaguete that day. There were people from the far-flung areas of Negros Oriental and there were no more transportation available to take them to the safety of their own homes. These people never experienced how to survive in hotels. Some people had job interviews, family commitments, and business meetings to attend to early the next day. These things beget frustration. It is an understandable human reaction.
When the officer-in-charge (incidentally, the manager was on leave) spoke to me, her face was full of determination. When I asked her what the reason was for cancelling the flight, she said it was force majeure. I said “Alright, so what is the plan? Where will we all be accommodated tonight?” In a way, I was egging her to move on, and that things like these happen and all we can do is make the experience as painless as possible for everybody.
Her answer was very stoic. I was dumbfounded. It was definitely asinine. I suddenly realized why the people who were there before me were both frustrated and mad. Very mad. “I am very sorry”, she started, now avoiding my eyes. “We cannot give you accommodations. If only I could, I would”, she continued. “It is not our company’s policy to provide accommodations in situations like this.”
“So what happens now?” I asked. She coldly said “I don’t know. Until your special flight tomorrow at 10:45am, you are on your own. And you cannot stay here either. You have to leave the building”.
“To make my point clear and unmistakable, I recited “WE DEMAND ACCOMMODATIONS TONIGHT” aloud. As I turned around, people started to chant the same phrase repeatedly.
“As if on cue, the OIC disappeared from the front desk and was replaced by uniformed security guards. Other people started asking questions in louder voices, standing firm yet with no forward movement nor any sign of pushing.
“It was then that a young gentleman asked for a ticket refund because he would risk a land trip to Cebu, late as it is, and try to catch a plane there for Manila. He said he simply could not miss a job interview early on April 28. One of the ladies at the counter attempted to help him. After the helpful lady made computations, she handed them to the young gentlemen. It was as if a force majeure materialized on the young man’s face. It turns out that he would be refunded only a fraction of what he originally paid for the ticket.
“When he asked why that was, the lady told him that it was company policy. “So you already delayed me here unnecessarily, and as a result, I will lose my shot at the job I have been applying for, and now you will even steal my money”. He was creating such a commotion that one of the guards called the OIC from the comforts of the office facade. Once again I spied those devilish eyes as she addressed the young man who started weeping at his misfortune. “Sir, I cannot do anything. It is company policy.”
“The commotion shifted to the left side as a German national with a Filipina wife asked another unanswerable question: ”I paid 240 thousand pesos for our ticket that leaves for Europe at 11 tonight. Who is going to reimburse me?”
“Then there was a group of young and elderly ladies who work in Manila as housekeepers. One of them called her employer who appeared to really be very mad at her. She tried to explain and asked one of the ladies behind the counter to talk to her employer. Unfortunately, the security guard brushed her away and the lady behind the counter gave her the evil eye.
“Case after heartbreaking case and sad stories of passengers were laid before the front desk, with nary a sympathetic ear to listen. There was a group of four matured tourists from Chicago who simply watched from a distance and patiently held their temper. I had a strange feeling that I will never see them again. At least not in the Philippines. There was another group of foreigners who had to catch a connecting flight to Puerto Princesa. Another Austrian couple simply watched. (This couple would eventually have to pay another Four Thousand Dollars to replace their ticket home).
“One reply fit all questions and admonitions that night: Company Policy.
“The crowd was getting impatient. There were three different groups who were shouting at the employees. One group was saying that the true reason our flight was cancelled was because there were not enough passengers for Dumaguete on that flight and Cebu Pacific did not want to lose money.
“The complete lack of concern of Cebu Pacific of the welfare of its riding public is very disturbing. Their business conduct is inhumane. It is no secret that cancellations and tardiness are the hallmarks of the airline industry. Who regulates the business practices of the likes of Cebu Pacific? Do they even get reprimanded or sanctioned when they leave late of schedule? Are they even aware of the implications of flight tardiness/cancellations to their passengers, especially in far-flung airports? Does anybody even care? The ability to mitigate the adverse effects of their decisions to the passengers was an opportunity to serve that they simply missed.
“The whole episode is marked by lies upon lies by Cebu Pacific to their passenger/patrons. Their commitment to common welfare and a humane business responsibility is seriously lacking. This episode demonstrates unequivocally that Cebu Pacific regards its passengers only as a means for profit and nothing else. Their decision to cancel the flight and the time they made the decision is evidence to their greed.
“Cebu Pacific is a ruthless business that goes after your money and nothing else. It is their company policy not to worry about stranded passengers even if they decide to cancel your flight for whatever reason. Their employees’ kind demeanor cannot compensate for a world of inconvenience that company policies can wreak upon you.
“The owners of Cebu Pacific conduct bad business. They are uncaring, callous, and insensitive to their passenger’s needs. They will throw you out of their office if you get caught with a flight delay/cancellation whether you are a child, an adult, or a senior citizen with special needs. They will charge you for whatever they can for whatever reason but will not be responsible for their flight delays and cancellations. They are a direct result of the Philippine government’s incompetence and inability to enforce whatever laws there are that protects the riding public. They do what they do with apparent impunity because they are allowed to, and because they can.”
Perhaps, our Civil Aviation regulators must also regulate our airlines’ company policies.
(excerpt from malaya.com.ph)