I was considering skipping this rant and letting the airline in question have another chance to redeem itself, but since a Marketmanila reader apparently was present at the Cebu airport check-in counters yesterday when I had this experience, I decided to go ahead and write it up for everyone to read aboutâ€¦ Over the last three months, I have flown Philippine Airlines at least 12 times on domestic flights, and 2 of those flights were late, one by about 45 minutes and a second flight delayed by 2 hours or so. This domestic on-time departure record of 83%, while pretty good, still seemed like a bit of slippage from my personal experience last year with perhaps 50-60 domestic flights and maybe 6-7 at most departed late (the worst, at 3 hours late), an 88% or so on-time departure record. And let me make something crystal clear, I donâ€™t particularly like PAL either, they just happen to be more reliable lately, if you can believe that. So despite my previous rant on Cebu Pacific, (that attracted almost ten thousand page views!) I figured it might be time to give the airline another chance, particularly since they were supposed to cost a lot less. I figured that all of their new planes seemed to have arrived, and their crews have had many months to get used to them. The runway at the domestic airport (the main excuse given the last time I did a rant) was fully repaired, and the A319 jets could take off from them rather than taxi to the large longer main runway. And since they use both the front and back doors to load and unload passengers, presumably they could turn their planes around faster. And oh, by the way, they donâ€™t even give any free drinks or snacks anymore (you have to buy them at a 400% mark-up from cost, and many items are manufactured by sister companies) so they have very little to load into the cabin between flightsâ€¦
So I booked flights for 2 passengers on roundtrip tickets to Cebu on-line. That worked very well this time (as opposed to previous “temporary” website issues), and in minutes I had electronic tickets and the cost of each roundtrip was PHP3,237.92, which was about 20% or so less than the best PAL fare I could get at similar travel times. No need to visit an office, nicely done, bravo! Our flight last Monday at 0645 to Cebu departed a few minutes late, but arrived with the proud and clear announcement over the PA system as â€œwe are pleased to announce that we have arrived 15 minutes ahead of scheduleâ€¦â€ So already it should be obvious to passengers that despite a flight time on the ticket of 70 minutes (it typically only takes 55-60 minutes of flying time), which should be from â€œpull away from gate at departure to final stop at gate on arrival,â€ there is some taxi time built into the system. Actually, by my watch, we arrived at the gate in Cebu at closer to 0752, which was only 3 minutes ahead of schedule, but I am quibblingâ€¦ but, come to think of this cheery PA announcement, WHEN was the last time you have heard a somber announcement over the PA system saying something like thisâ€¦ â€œ we apologize but we have landed 240 minutes beyond our scheduled arrival timeâ€¦â€ I have NEVER heard the latter in any of my thousands of flight segments. More likely you will get a â€œwe apologize for the late arrival due to blah blah blahâ€¦â€
Now I must disclose that before I took Cebu Pacific, business partners of Mrs. MM had recently warned her that despite their taking DOZENS of flights on Cebu Pacific per month, they were recently exasperated by what seemed like an average of 3 hours of departure delays (which even I thought must be exaggerated) so they had decided to switch their business back to PAL. But for us, so far so good â€“ at least 50% of this trip was on time. Yahoo! On the flight back yesterday, Thursday, scheduled for 1755 (555pm), I thought we might be able to make the earlier flight at 4pm so I had my office call CP to change the flight, only to be told that to do so I would have to pay over PHP1,800 more per ticket or practically double the cost of the ticket one way to begin with. Okay, I understand this is a budget fare, so I didnâ€™t raise a stink, and I stuck to our original schedule of 555pm instead. Getting to the airport at 355pm, I noticed from the monitors that the 4 pm flight was listed as delayed and was scheduled to leave 2 hours late, at 6 pmâ€¦ I am not sure what time it eventually left but it was a good 2-3 hours late. Thank goodness we didnâ€™t pay PHP3,600 (for two passengers) to switch to an earlier flight that would have left after our originally scheduled flight… Then when we got to the counter, I asked how late the 555pm flight was and they said “as of now, it is scheduled to leave at 9pm!” Egads, that is over 3 hours late!!! I was so utterly annoyed and it was clear that many flights to and from Manila from Cebu that day were also late, probably in excess of 50-60% of them actually, so we pulled our maletas from the scales and I ran to the PAL counter…
The 520pm flight of PAL was ON-TIME, but totally fully booked. Thankfully, I have one of their highest priority cards and I had ourselves listed on the waitlist. I bought two full price economy tickets from PAL at PHP3,823 EACH for one-way and eventually squeezed onto the flight with minutes to spare and got to Manila well ahead of Cebu Pacific, which one of my readers on that flight suggests left up to 4 hours late!!! In the end, penny wise, pound foolish. I will refund our tickets at Cebu Pacific with penalties, and with a long wait no doubt, and in the end, I should just NEVER have even tried Cebu Pacific again. I cannot imagine what excuses the airline has this time. I am not even going to bother writing them. Frankly, if they are going to be so pissy about passengers arriving late or changing flights, passengers should rise up in arms and demand consumer laws that seek compensation if airlines fly chronically late. Imagine what would happen if airlines had to pay waiting customers for THEIR time? Donâ€™t you think that would improve their on-time departure performance? I mean, look at it the Marketman way. Letâ€™s say that on the Manila-Cebu-Manila route, 12 flights were delayed yesterday. At an average delay of say 1.5 hours and 120 passengers per flight (80% occupancy), that would translate into 2,160 wasted passenger MAN HOURS with folks twiddling their thumbs in the airport waiting lounge, overpaying for their sodas. If you assumed each of those passenger man hours was valued at say PHP200 an hour (frankly, I think they should get more), that would mean that Cebu Pacific delays that day would have a calculated economic cost of PHP432,000 or nearly half a million pesos and that is only on ONE of their routes. Systemwide, and annually, chronic delays could be costing passengers millions of wasted man hours, and hundreds of millions of pesos in potential productivityâ€¦and THAT REALLY PISSES ME OFF!
I realize that many folks may not care about their flight leaving on time, and may not have anything better to do with their time, but I sure wish that Cebu Pacific would get its on-time departure record back on track. After all, donâ€™t you recall their recent television advertisement with a Lolo shuffling at a slow pace to the airport departure gate hours before the scheduled flight so he wouldnâ€™t be left behind? Today the poor guy would wait 4-6 hours before the flight ever took off! The equivalent advertisement I can think of now is to show Cebu Pacific planes taking off and flying at 1/3 the normal speed. I suspect if the Philippine government wrote performance standards into their â€œLICENSESâ€ for businesses such as those in public transport, that if they departed more than 25% late, they would lose their franchise, these transport companies would figure out how to leave on time!
One last thing, if you are a regular marketmanila.com commenter and you have flown or know of a close friend or family member who has flown Cebu Pacific in the last 3 months, did your/their flight leave on time, or was it delayed? Please leave a comment so we get broader input into this discussion and it isn’t based solely on my own experience…
And one last last thing… watch this youtube video so proudly proclaiming Cebu Pacific “The New Filipino Time…” Hello?!?, should we adjust our watches back three hours on average???