MANILA, Philippines (2ND UPDATE) - It was chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on Christmas Day, with many passengers complaining of flight delays and overbooked flights.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it is looking into the possible liability of budget carrier Cebu Pacific over the flight cancellations and alleged "overbooking" which inconvenienced hundreds of passengers.
DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal said Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is meeting with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Monday to investigate these issues and determine if Cebu Pacific is liable for any violations.
"We have closely monitored numerous flight cancellations and cases of overbooking which have caused inconveniences to the public. Secretary Abaya coordinated with aviation authorities and airlines yesterday to open more counters and deploy more personnel to assist passengers until the situation stabilizes," he said.
"The CAB, MIAA, and CAAP will convene on Monday to investigate these issues and determine if Cebu Pacific is liable for any violations and whether tighter regulations are necessary,” Sagcal added.
On Friday, CAB said it is looking into these passenger complaints against budget carrier Cebu Pacific.
In an interview on ANC, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said they are still checking the reason for the flight cancellations and delays.
"We are still validating the facts on the ground, whether it is really a result of overbooking because our monitors are saying there are quite a number of issues like there were fewer people at the counters. But we monitor overbooking, and require airlines to report to us the number of overbooked passengers," he said.
"We called the attention of Cebu Pacific. We are still looking into the confusion in the airport yesterday and today. We have not yet established the facts," he added.
Arcilla said Cebu Pacific blamed the overcrowding, partly on the rainy weather the day before Christmas, which resulted in cancelled flights.
Airlines are allowed to overbook flights by 10 percent. He noted it is a global practice, with airlines allowed to overbook to compensate for the "no-shows."
Under the Air Passenger Bill of Rights, Arcilla said passengers have the right to be rebooked or reimbursed the full amount, and endorsed to other airlines, in case where the airline is at fault.
"A fault attributable to airline would be the pilot did not appear or maybe the plane is not available... Under our rules, if the flight is cancelled and it is attributable to the fault of the airline, apart from the rebooking, the passenger is entitled to 100 percent value of the ticket on top of the new ticket," he said.
Arcilla said CAB is considering the possibility of issuing a directive to prohibit overbooking during peak season. "That's possible but from what we know, airlines would hardly overbook during peak periods," he said.
Cebu Pacific explains
Juan Lorenzo Tañada, vice president for corporate affairs of Cebu Pacific, said apart from the high number of passengers heading to the provinces for Christmas, the airline had to adjust flight schedules due to the cancellation of several flights because of bad weather.
These factors led to long queues, flight delays and angry passengers at the airport.
“Christmas Day was really a big, big deluge that we experienced, but we experienced a lot of consequential flight delays because of the air traffic congestion. There was inclement weather in some regions and this resulted to a lot of flights being cancelled,” Tañada told ANC on Friday.