Aunty Mila, Aunty Lalang, Sheila and Brian are in town until October 1. They arrived on two separate flights last September 23 – four of them on Philippine Airlines (PAL) PR 183 and one on Cebu Pacific Air (CPA) 5J 389. Earlier in the week, they each informed me that their flights had been moved and that they would all be arriving a little later than scheduled. No problem.
I arrived at the airport well before 4:00 pm (new arrival time) and settled myself to do a bit of work on the internet. As I sat in the restaurant, I could hear the airlines’ announcements over the public system and was surprised that both PAL and CPA were delayed. I wondered if there was a storm in Manila. According to a quick search on PAGASA’s website, there was none. Aunty Mila on CPA mentioned something about the delayed arrival of a turn-around flight from Davao. So I continued to wait. After a few minutes, almost simultaneously, she texted and I heard on the public system that CPA would be departing Manila at 6:00 pm and PAL would be arriving Cagayan at 7:00 pm. Wow, what was going on?
At around 6:30 pm, PAL announced that outgoing passengers on Flight PR 184 were going to be given dinner and all they had to do was present their boarding passes at the restaurant. True enough, Flight PR 183 arrived at 7:03 pm and Aunty Lalang, Sheila and Brian stepped into the arrival area, tired and running on empty. Both Aunty Lalang and Sheila were on their 25th hour of wakefulness, having left their respective foreign cities (Dubai and New Jersey) just the day before. They met at the airport in Manila by coincidence (checked-in at different times but found that they got seats next to each other, what are the chances of that?) and then, of all things, got delayed.
Aunty Mila’s flight arrived at 8:00 pm (delayed yet another half hour) and after the kisses and hugs, I went to help her claim her bag… which wasn’t there. About 20 other passengers’ luggage as well were missing. How could that be? Apparently, these 20 lucky ones had been given the option to transfer to an earlier flight as their original flight was delayed. So of course, they took the opportunity to be in CDO earlier. However, what the airline (CPA) failed to mention was that their luggage would remain on the original plane. Now where’s the logic in that? So we had to wait for the said plane to arrive, which would be at 9:30 pm still. In a split decision, we decided to go to SM and have our very late dinner. Good thing there was one restaurant still open – Prawn House, but that’s another story. Be it as it may, Aunty Mila was able to get her bag when at last the plane arrived, and we went home laughing about the whole day’s fiasco, but mark my words, these 20 passengers will not be flying Cebu Pacific Air anytime soon after this.
I, myself, have had bad experiences with CPA.. almost every time I fly with them, there seems to be something. The last was in August, on a trip to Boracay. PAL doesn’t have any flights for this route and Air Philippines Express (APE) didn’t have the right flight time. Otherwise, I would have booked with them. Anyway, we were going to be traveling with my brother and his family and, being a travel agent, Mama, Ed and I were at the airport with much time to spare. But Rey miscalculated the travel time from Alabang to NAIA3 and made the check-in counter by just the skin of their teeth. It was me who negotiated with the CPA staff to keep the counter open until they arrived but she was adamant that their counters always close exactly 35 minutes before boarding. It was a very stressful half-hour I tell you that.
Well, after all that – Rey was able to check everyone and everything in and were rushing to the gate (which was all the way to the end) when CPA announced over the public system that our flight was delayed. Just imagine: the counter staff was threatening to bump off my brother and his family, 5 of them all, because they were late in checking in by 1 minute, and THEN announce that the flight has been delayed. Grr! Then there’s the issue of the luggage allowance. CPA’s fares are so cheap that the free baggage facility has been totally removed. Now, passengers with check-in baggage have to pay a certain amount just to be able to enjoy spacious legroom during their flight. Well, look where it got my aunt? She got her spacious legroom alright, so spacious that she had to wait for the next plane to get her bag. And then another issue of the snacks on the flight.. which are non-existent now. And so many other amenities that the airline removed just to catch the attention of travelers with their cheap rates.
I’m the kind of traveler who enjoys convenience and personal touches. As a travel agent, I enjoy providing these services to my clients and guests. I used to fly with Cebu Pacific Air when the competition with Philippine Airlines was focused on who offered the better service. But every since CPA became cost-conscious, I stopped, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. There are a few times when there is no other option, like our Boracay trip last August, but I usually exhaust all other possibilities first before accepting the inevitable.
True, PAL was also delayed and all its passengers were greatly inconvenienced, but at least passengers are provided with (meager) snacks inflight (with free water) and they are allowed to check-in their baggage (up to 15kilos) for no extra charge. CPA is forever offering discounts on their fares and is by far the CHEAPEST airline overall. And because of this, YOU, the tourist, are able to go to places YOU never thought was possible with the high cost of transportation. But is the amount YOU saved on your ticket worth the hassle, the hunger, the time consumed (delays, traffic on the runway, mishandling of baggage), and above all, the emotional, physical and mental strain caused by airline staff inefficiency and inability to come up with practical solutions?
For me, no. For YOU, well, it will depend on your level of tolerance for unexpected, unforeseen and, most of the time, disappointing consequences.