Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's time everyone flies...but with Cebu Pacific? Not anymore...

I am going to set this one straight...this has been Cebu Pacific's catch phrase for their air transportation services, "Cebu Pacific Air - It's time everyone (every Filipino) flies". I would like to share this horror experiences I encountered with Cebu Pacific, from ticketing up to actual date of departure.

So here goes the story:

It was January 9, 2008 that I decided to book a flight for 7 PAX to Puerto Princesa. I booked via their Customer Service Hotline Number. I was booked for a roundtrip ticket from MNL - Puerto Princesa and vice versa. I was given a confirmation day on January
12, 2008 on/before 3:00 PM. Ticket fare is P4,515 per head.

Came January 12, 2008, a Saturday - I made my way to their ticketing office in Robinson's place, Manila to confirm booking and pay for the tickets. It was a rainy Saturday and I wasn't able to get on time (before 3:00 PM), but fortunately, I was able to have the confirmation time extended upon informing the Ticketing Agent. I was able to pay for the 7 rountrip tickets amid more than an hour's wait for my number to be called. I had to pay P4,515 per head with 3 tickets to avail of the Senior Citizen Discount at 20% which was lowered to around P4,100+ per Sr.Citizen (note that the Senior Citizen ID has to be presented even without the ID owner
present during the actual ticket confirmation).

Later that night of January 12, I hooked-up on the Internet and just tried to book the same flight itinerary over Cebu Pacific Air.com and was shocked to get seats over the same flight for P3,600 per head (plus of course a lesser fare for the Sr. Citizens). I went to call their hotline number to inform of my plea as to why I was able to get a lower ticket over the internet - given the same itinerarythat I already confirmed and paid for over their Ticketing office. After much discussion with the CSR over the phone, he agreed to have my flight re-booked to avail of the lower 'promo' fare over the internet but will be charged with P300+ per ticket rebooked for the re-booking/re-ticketing fee. Even with the charges for re-booking, I agreed since it will have me avail of the refund for the tickets at P600 each which is really a HUGE difference from our original ticket cost. I was just advised to have it confirmed by January 15, 2008 at 4:00 PM, but since this is a weekday and I won't be able to drop-by on a weekday due to work, I went the next day January 13, 2008 (Sunday) to confirm my re-booking.

Came January 13, 2008, I went to their Ticketing Office in Robinson's place Malate to confirm the re-booking. I waited for 3 hours to have the re-booking confirmed and have my refund. It was really an upsetting day partly because they have a very tedious
process of cancellation and refund and the Ticketing Agent was quite slow. Cancellation and refund took 1 hour to do, Re-ticketing took another hour. I was really already losing my patience, but was able to hold on into it. Thank God I was able to get my ticket at
around 7:00 PM that day. I thought I was going to miss mass during that night. I was able to attend to the 8:00 PM mass that night. Piece of advice though, for ticket confirmation and payment, it's better that you visit them at around 6:00 PM or about an hour before closing since there are almost no customers in queue by this time - that is, if you still would like to take Cebu Pacific. This is just a premier of what I encountered with them during Ticketing - the horror of the actual day(s) of flight will still be discussed later.

Came February 15, 2008 - the day of our departure for Puerto Princesa. Since our ETD is at 2:30 PM in the afternoon, me and my company arrived at the domestic airport at around 12:30 PM (2 hours before our departure). At Cebu Pacific's check-in counter was a long queue of travellers also departing for Puerto Princesa. We were able to escape the long queue by lining-up at an open check-in Counter for Cebu Pacific originally opened for Kalibo - we were actually advised by the stand-by guard that we can check-in our baggages at that Counter. Upon checking-in our luggages and waiting for the baggage pass, we were informed that our flightwas delayed and moved to 4:00 PM. I asked the Check-in Counter attendant for the reason and was given just a ,'Maintenance excuse'. We can't do anything but oblige. We proceeded to enter the Pre-departure area after another x-rays and payment of
boarding fees. We were at the pre-departure area by 1:00 PM, after-all it's 3 hours wait. We had to have our lunch inside the pre-departure area which was rather expensive.

30 mins before our scheduled departure for 4:00 PM, we still weren't called for boarding and waited 'til 3:45 PM to ask the Customer Service counter if our scheduled departure for Puerto Princesa at 4:00 PM will be on-time. I was advised that there will be another delay and re-scheduled trip is at 5:17 PM, the reason being that the plane we'll be flying at still hasn't arrived from Puerto Princesa. But they were kind enough to provide for a packed meal due to another delay. They gave away a packed Jollibee chickenjoy lunch and
a bottle of water. Again, there's nothing to do but wait. During those wait time, I have witnessed all flights of Cebu Pacific to other destinations go, there was Kalibo, then Bacolod and then Cebu. To think that 5:00 PM has already arrived and we still weren't called to board. One American national already approached the counter and was already pissed-off. He stated his case that he was with his family and waiting at the pre-departure area since 11:00 AM and he has a baby in-tow. I also approached the counterto ask if the 5:17 PM flight will still push through, and he was polite enough to go ask the terminal officer. As soon as he was
gonna go back to approach me, the cardboard labelled Puerto Princesa was placed in Gate 1 of the Departure area which signalled that the flight to Puerto Princesa is already 'boarding'. We were able to depart at 5:30 PM and arrive Puerto Princesa more than an hour later.
It was such a hassle to us since we have a neighbor's relative pick-us up and went to the airport several times. We were able to get out of the Puerto Princesa Airport at 7:30 PM. We don't have a place to stay yet and was really pissed off that due to the delays that Cebu Pacific gave us, we weren't able to get a place to stay at til 10 PM that night and we weren't able to arrange for a tour with our accomodation for us to the Underground River because it was already late. We were to stay in Palawan for 3 days and 3 nights only. But was lucky enough to be able to book a day tour of Dos Palmas on Feb.17 (Sunday) - this will be discussed in a separate blog.

Came February 18, 2008 (Monday), which is our departure day. We were supposed to leave at 4:15 PM that day. And was relaxed that we still have a lot of time to shop for items in Puerto Princesa the morning of that day. We left the resort for a little shopping at
7:30 AM and went back a little past 9:00 AM. Upon returning to the resort that morning, I went to pass-by the Resort's front deskand asked if she could confirm with Cebu Pacific if scheduled flight to Manila at 4:15 PM later that day will be on-time. Initially, she
said that she was trying to call Cebu Pacific's office but the lines were always busy. She assured us that she'll be constantly calling Cebu Pacific to confirm our flight that day. And I went back to our Resort room to try to get more sleep. Anyway I was assured that we still have so many hours left. To make the story short, after 15 minutes the Front-desk clerk went to our room and asked if 'passenger 1 and 2 (name withheld)' is with us, and I said 'Yes'. She told us that our 4:15 PM flight was cancelled and we may have the option to board the 10:00 AM flight bound to Manila, or be transferred as chance passengers to another carrier (PAL, Seair) in the
afternoon, or stay another day at a different hotel/resort to board their flight in the morning the next day. I initially said that we can't
stay another day since I have work the next day already. And all of us decided to take the 10:00 AM flight. We were informed of this situation at 9:37 AM and we still have a lot of packing-up to do. Imaging the hassle and the stress that Cebu Pacific gave us
that day. None of us were able to take a shower and to double-check if we have left something at the resort or not. We packed-up hurriedly and was really furious at what Cebu Pacific did to us. I would have appreciated if they gave me a call before hand to inform
us that our return flight to Manila was cancelled because as far as I know, during ticketing, I gave all contact details including my mobile phone number. We left the resort on the way to the airport at 9:50 AM and arrived the Puerto Princesa airport at 10:00 AM.
We had a hurried check-in, x-rays, and all and we were able to board the 10:00 AM flight with the plane just waiting for us to board. The plane was able to depart Puerto Princesa at 10:30 AM, still delayed by 30 mins due to their procedural and Customer Service flaws.
With this experience with Cebu Pacific on-hand, I doubt if I will ever consider flying with them. I've had numerous trips in the past already, both International and domestic, flying with some other airlines and Cebu Pacific's performance was very memorable for the wrong reasons. I doubt if I'll fly with them again in the future even if they have their Piso (P1.00) fare catch. Note also that for the more than an hour trip, there's no snacks or refreshments served to the passengers. I would have taken PAL for just a couple of
hundred pesos difference, had PAL still have open slots on the same destination, at anytime.

It's time everyone flies...but not with Cebu Pacific for me, Again!


Noelle De Guzman said...

Oh my. That IS a horrible experience.

As far as most people's horror stories go, it's usually the late afternoon flights that get delayed, or cancelled. Whatever happened to Cebu Pacific's original advertising gimmick that they fly on time?

jiggybabymiggz said...

Yes. And I myself can't believe that they won't inform us beforehand that our return flight to Manila that afternoon was cancelled due to less number of passengers. They would have informed us during our departure for Puerto Princesa. They made our vacation trip rather very short. Leaving Manila very late in the afternoon and returning to Manila very early. Our plans were affected because of this. They are just up to opening more slots of their promo fare to get more passengers but they wouldn't care about their passengers. Maybe we are just not the only ones dissed by their Customer Service.