Cebu Pacific escapes penalties over recent flight cancellations

Cebu Pacific escapes penalties over recent flight cancellations

MANILA, Philippines — The government has decided not to impose penalties on Cebu Pacific following massive flight cancellations, but has ordered the budget carrier to submit within 30 days a concrete plan detailing corrective measures in its operations to prevent further inconvenience to passengers.

The order is in line with the report submitted by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) after two formal hearings were conducted to allow Cebu Pacific to explain circumstances behind the flight cancellations.

Based on the investigations, the DOTr said the CAB prescribed that a “stern warning be given to Cebu Pacific to exercise diligence necessary in maintaining stability and reliability of air transport service to the riding public.”

During two hearings held on May 2 and 6,Cebu Pacific cited ongoing efforts to improve on-time performance (OTP) as factors that have led to its decision to cancel hundreds of flights.

Cebu Pacific applied for cancellation of 172 one-way domestic flights from April 28 to May 10, which is equivalent to about 14 flights a day, out of its more or less 400 daily domestic flights.

“We are hoping that Cebu Pacific will immediately comply with the order to resolve this issue. We cannot bring back anymore the inconvenience these cancellations have caused. But moving forward, we aim to have more substantial actions so that our passengers will not have to suffer,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement.

Following the investigation, the CAB said it found Cebu Pacific “adequately equipped” in terms of assets.

For its crew, the DOTr said the CAB board was convinced with the scenario “that the additional time spent by on-duty crew on the tarmac consumes the working hours and reserves that were supposed to be utilized at a much later schedule.”

“Hence, it is in this sense that CAB finds Cebu Pacific to have crewing problem,” the DOTr said.

  Cebu Pacific reported during the hearings that it takes at least 49 minutes and as long as 66 minutes from the aircraft’s closing of doors to actual lift-off.

Of the said period, about 19.6 minutes is spent from the closing of doors to the “blocks off” or the time the aircraft vacates the parking position, while 46.6 minutes from the blocks off to the lift-off.

The hour-long stay on the tarmac was observed to have pushed Cebu Pacific’s OTP to an average of 51.16 percent, with lows of around 30 percent in March.

Cebu Pacific said the flight cancellations would “create space” in their flight and crew inventory, “make way for operational recovery,” and “minimize rolling delays,” noting further that the factors adversely affecting its OTP are largely within its internal operational sphere.

Meanwhile, DOTr said affected passengers’ concerns were found to be handled properly by Cebu Pacific in compliance with the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.

“Thus, imposition of penalties was not considered at present,” the agency said.  

CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said that while the CAB board understands the cancellations as a recuperative measure for the airline, it cannot be made at the expense of the riding public.

“We want to remind airlines to consider the welfare of its passengers by avoiding short notice. The people have paid for these flights and have made their schedules accordingly. While we understand the corrective measures being made to improve OTP, maximum effort should be done so that these measures are not at the expense of our passengers,” Arcilla said.