“I think overbooking is the main issue, not merely
absenteeism of staff.”
Representative ColmenaresCebu Pacific: Why deny that "overbooking" was one of the major reasons for Christmas Day delays?
“We conservatively overbooked one to two percent. We did not think overbooking is primary cause of the problems we had.”
Lance GokongweiFrom Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei on Wednesday apologized before lawmakers for the company’s delayed and canceled flights which stranded irate passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) during the Christmas rush.
“I am humbled by the trust of so many Filipinos and foreign tourists placed on Cebu Pacifi to take them safely home to their destinations. Last Christmas, we let them down. And I am profoundly sorry that we failed them,” Gokongwei told the House of Representatives transportation committee hearing.
“After the events of last Christmas, we had done a lot of soul searching… Normally we can recover from such issues as they are daily occurrence for any airline. On those days, we cannot. While we did our best…our service was found wanting,” he added.
Gokongwei appealed to the riding public to understand that Cebu Pacific could not control challenges like the inclement weather.
“We work in a complex aviation environment of busy airports and inclement weather and aircrafts (which are) at times subject to delay. But our passengers don’t care about such things. They expect their airlines to manage these challenges for them,” he said.
Gokongwei was present for the House panel hearing to explain the Cebu Pacific’s side on allegations that its management allowed overbooking despite the peak season, resulting in flight delays, cancellations and chaos among irate passengers on their way to see their families for the holidays.
The country’s largest budget carrier airline was fined P52 million by the government for the holiday fiasco.
Gokongwei cited the following factors as causing the massive delays and cancellations of flights: inclement weather, failure of ground handler to fulfill services, undermanned operations, absenteeism of staff, as well as Cebu Pacific’s failure to anticipate the effects of the holiday peak season.
But the budget carrier president said overbooking is not the primary cause of the holiday fiasco. He said the airline overbooked one to two percent for the average four percent of passengers who missed their flights.
“We conservatively overbooked one to two percent… We did not think overbooking is primary cause of the problems we had,” Gokongwei said.
He said in the industry, airlines are allowed to overbook by 10 percent.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, however, said he wanted to focus on overbooking allegations hounding the airline.
“I think overbooking is the main issue, not merely absenteeism of staff,” Colmenares said.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez said he, as a frequent airplane traveler, noticed that flight delays and cancellations have become increasingly common with the budget carrier.
“Cebu Pacific used to be on time. But as years go by, it [has become] worse, delays have been increasing,” Benitez said.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said Gokongwei’s apology is not enough to appease the passengers’ outrage over the airport mess.
“This cannot be simply answered by an ‘I am sorry.’ It is incumbent upon Congress to assert its power over Cebu Pacific’s franchise which is subject to amendment or repeal when common good so requires,” Evardone said.
Gokongwei said the airline has implemented the following measures to prevent a repeat of the December fiasco: requiring domestic ground handler to take preventive measures to ensure sustainable staff buffers, contracting a second ground handler to supplement domestic check-ins and serve as alternative buffer, strengthening the management control in key areas, coordinating more closely with terminal management for use of additional facilities, and using a brand new Airbus arriving first quarter of this year as additional aircraft to assist disrupted passengers.
Scandal of overbooked holiday flights
From Daily Mail (UK)
Thousands of holiday-makers are suffering from the growing scandal of passengers being 'bumped' off over-booked flights.
Travel experts warn that on some flights as many as 150 tickets are sold for every 100 seats.
British Airways admitted it overbooked almost half a million seats a year as an EU report warned the problem among all airlines had reached unacceptable levels.
The Daily Mail today reveals the shocking extent to which passengers heading for summer getaways are facing delays despite checking in on time with valid tickets and confirmed reservations.
Consumer watchdogs are calling for the publication of figures showing how many passengers are being bumped - officially described as 'denied boarding'.
The airline industry admits it is standard practice to accept more reservations than there are seats.
The practice, which is not illegal, is justified by the airlines on the grounds that, statistically, some passengers will not show up. These 'noshows' are mainly business or first- class passengers with flexible tickets.
'Bumping' involves airline staff in departure lounges asking passengers to stay behind in return for cash compensation and a seat on the next available flight.
Airlines have no set rules about which passengers they will order off a flight - there is no appeal - if there are not enough volunteers.
However, passengers travelling with children, the disabled or other vulnerable people such as pregnant women are unlikely to be first choice.
Airlines will also be reluctant to alienate those who have paid full fare, particularly businessmen.
Simon Evans, chief executive of the Air Transport Users' Group, said: 'They might make the final decision by looking at who checked in or booked their flight latest. But on the whole it is pretty arbitrary and random.'
Minimum levels of compensation are laid down in an EU regulation governing all flights departing from airports within the EU.
Payments range from about £45 for missing a short-haul flight that leads to a short delay, to about £180 if it leads to a four-hour delay on a long-haul flight, though this can be exceeded.
Mr Evans said: 'Some airlines' flights have been 50 per cent overbooked. It varies according to the routes. We hear stories of 50 and 60 people being bumped at one time.
'All scheduled airlines over-book. Some are worse than others. We have had a long-running battle with Air India and named them in one of our annual reports.
'We'd like to know how exactly many people are bumped by each airline. Naming and shaming the worst offenders means passengers can see at a glance if someone is way out of line.'
The Daily Mail contacted a total of 21 airlines but only four - British Airways, British Midland bmi, Virgin Atlantic and South African Airways --were willing to release information.
The remainder either declined to co- operate or
failed to respond to our requests. Four American companies - Continental, United Airlines, Northwest and American Airlines - were not able to provide a breakdown for UK flights.
British Airways, which carries 48million passengers on 530,000 flights a year worldwide, admitted: 'We do have an over-booking policy similar to other airlines.'
It said that on average, this runs at a rate of 1 per cent --one overbooked seat for every 100 passengers. That means nearly half a million (480,000) overbooked seats a year.
BA says around 24,000 of its passengers a year are affected by overbooking.
Virgin Atlantic said one in every 10,000 passengers was involuntarily 'bumped', and that most preferred to accept as compensation their offer of a return ticket to any Virgin Atlantic destination.
A recent European Commission report, which examined the accountability of airlines, highlighted the lack of information relating to 'bumping'.
It said: 'Passenger dissatisfaction is not limited to delays. Complaints about air transport services have increased in recent years in areas of airline service quality other than punctuality, such as baggage handling and denied boarding.'