MANILA – Government aviation authorities have slammed budget airline Cebu Pacific for the numerous flight delays and cancellations that affected passengers during the Christmas season.
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Angel Honrado disputed the airline’s claims that air traffic congestion caused the delays, saying it was the mismanagement of assigned slots that triggered delays.
"Airlines are not taking off and not arriving at the designated time. Nagkakapatong-patong na sila," said Honrado.
Cebu Pacific said 30 percent of its flights were on time during the December 24-26 period.
The airline also blamed bad weather for the cancellation of several flights on December 25, which caused an overspill on the next day and a high level of absenteeism of check-in personnel.
Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, however, said Cebu Pacific should have prepared a contingency plan to accommodate the high volume of passengers during the Christmas season.
He said the shortage of Cebu Pacific staff due to fatigue is unacceptable.
Cebu Pacific also cited the space constraints at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 as one of the reasons for the long queues, as five international airlines recently moved its operations to the terminal.
The airline said its counters were reduced to 50 percent due to the transfer of the five airlines to NAIA 3. Cebu Pacific is now requesting for the allocation of more check-in counters and boarding gates.
Honrado, meanwhile, pointed out that the airline should adjust to the infrastructure and not the other way around.
Honrado said that based on initial investigations, 142 flights were delayed on December 24, 100 of which were Cebu Pacific flights.
Civil Aviation Board (CAB) executive director Carmelo Arcilla also said the reasons given by Cebu Pacific do not add up.
Arcilla said a panel has been formed to look into the airline’s liability amid the rising number of complaints from passengers.
CAB has asked the airline to submit on January the list of cancelled and delayed flights, the number of affected evaluation of outsourced personnel, and other documents to support the airline's claims.
The panel, composed of the CAB, MIAA, and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will convene early January to look into the documents and reports.
“All of these three agencies oversee the airline operations, so the findings of this joint committee will be submitted to our respective board for evaluation and for regulations,” said Arcilla.
Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs Jorenz Tanada earlier said the airline will cooperate with government’s investigation.
“We will fully cooperate with the CAB to address their inquiries,” Tanada said. -- With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News