Saturday, August 17, 2013

Zest Air Grounded, Flights Cancelled

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has issued a memorandum suspending the operations of Zest Air following a series of serious deviations and infractions of Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations.

Zest Air Grounded
Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG

The announcement on Friday, August 16, affected at least 1,000 passengers travelling on that particular day with thousands more impacted in the coming days. It was announced earlier this month that Zest Air was under the heightened surveillance of the national aviation regulator investigating a series of suspicious flight cancellations in the month of July.

In its memorandum, CAAP declared, "Zest Air's air operator certificate is suspended and hereby precluded to engage in air carrier operations, which shall take effect upon the receipt of this notice/letter and shall remain in effect until this authority is assured that the necessary corrective actions and compliance with aviation safety standards has been undertaken by the airline."

On Friday, approximately eight flights carrying almost 1,000 passengers failed to take off. The suspension took effect at 6pm with no flights being permitted to depart with the exception of return flights to Manila. The Civil Aviation Authority revealed that its investigation of Zest Air had revealed a number of infractions including:

  • Lack of a Qualified Accountable Manager: The position was vacated by Captain Ely Tabora on July 16 but Zest Air has yet to replace him. CAAP gave Zest Air ten days in which to find a replacement that had to be approved by CAAP but as this did not happen, the airline operated "illegally" during this period.
  • Failure to Complete Checks: Zest Air's crews failed to check aircraft logs, flight manifests, weather and to present airman licenses to CAAP during ramp inspection. 
  • Various Infractions that Impacted Flight Operations: Zest Air was written up for a number of incidents including fuel overflow at Kalibo on July 22 and August 9. The airline was also caught refueling an aircraft with passengers on board on August 14. In Tagbilaran, a flight was grounded due to a missing fuel cap and defective flight controls as reported by the captain. The pilot later retracted his statement advising that the cap had been located. But when inspectors reviewed the incident and checked the aircraft, the cap was still missing. 
According to John Andrews of CAAP, further investigation revealed that the fuel cap had been missing since March of this year. The infractions were discovered by a group of airworthiness inspectors tasked with monitoring Zest Air operations from July 31 onwards. The report released on August 16 also revealed that several pilots had exceeded the 100 hours flight time limit per month due to the rise in flight operations and a crew shortage. The report noted that, "Zest Air lacks procedures in monitoring the flight time limit of pilots and procedures. In 2012, 24 pilots have exceeded the flying time limitations."

Since the airline was placed on heightened surveillance three weeks ago, inspectors reported that they had not witnessed any significant trends of correcting the discovered defects. As a result, the inspectors were left with no choice but to recommend the immediate suspension of the carrier's operations. But in a statement released by Zest Air, airline management stated that it was surprised that the suspension was issued without being given "an opportunity to properly respond to the issues raised."

Joy Caneba, Zest Air Director, disagreed with the claims of the Civil Aviation Authority that the airline had neglected to address safety issues stating that most have already been addressed.  "We should have been given enough time and due process to answer all the issues that were raised," said Caneba. "Most of the items in the letter, we feel that we have already addressed them."

Caneba reiterated to the public that all of Zest Air's aircraft are safe and that the airline "voluntarily grounded" a number of its aircraft over the past weeks to ensure the safety of passengers. This resulted in the cancellation of 33 flights in July alone which triggered the CAAP investigation. Caneba added that the airline intends to declare the airline's owner, Alfredo Yao, as the "Accountable Manager" on Monday which will need to be approved by CAAP.

The airline also intends to submit logs to aviation officials on Monday showing that none of the pilots of the airline have exceeded flying hours, contrary to the claims of CAAP. In its official statement, the airline said, "The management of Zest Air have been in full cooperation with CAAP in ensuring that the maintenance programs and policies of Zest Air are in place. All findings in CAAP's letter have already been appropriately addressed and we believe that they do not merit suspension and grounding of our operations." A copy of the comprehensive improvement program will also be submitted outlining the efforts that the airline is undertaking. "We have been investing significantly in our operations and fleet to further raise the standards of excellence across all aspects of personnel, parts, and maintenance/technical services," the airline added.

Meanwhile, Zest Air advised that it will be offering refunds or the option to reschedule flights to passengers affected by the suspension. The airline expects to have matters resolved by next week. Passengers are advised to contact the airline to make necessary arrangements. PAL Express was contracted on Friday to operate special flights to rescue passengers that were left stranded by the suspension while Cebu Pacific stated that it would make every effort to take on slack created by Zest Air's suspension. Operations of Zest Air's sister carrier, Air Asia will not be affected.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Section 11 Chapter 4 of the Philippine Air Passenger Bill of Rights stated that passengers must be informed beforehand if his or her flight will be cancelled. 

If the passenger is already at the airport at the time of the advisory, passengers are entitled to meals, hotel accommodation, round trip hotel transportation, free phone calls, text, or e-mails.

If a passenger chooses not to utilize the existing ticket or fly the route, a full refund of the fare including taxes and surcharges must be reimbursed to the passenger. Passengers also have the option to rebook their their tickets without additional charge to the next available flights or any flight within 30 days. However, if the rebooking should exceed 30 days, charges will apply. Alternatively, if less than 24 hours cancellation notice is provided, passengers can also choose to be endorsed to another air carrier without paying any fare difference should the passenger decide to do so.








38 comments :

  1. This was long time overdue !
    I have experienced myself the non-existance or non-compliance of existing procedures also by cabin crew.
    They simply did not know what to do in some cases.
    And these problems seem to go through all operational departments.
    There´s simply a great lack of safety culture that cannot be tolerated any longer.

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  2. i am scheduled on August 20 manila to Cebu going back on the 21st. What should I do? Will i still go to the airport on the same date?

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    Replies
    1. If you go to the airport on the same date, you should be endorsed to another carrier if Zest is still not operating. Just go there well in advance as endorsements to other airlines are on a first come, first served basis.

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    2. Hi , I am scheduled to fly tomo ,August 20 with my daughter ,back to Kuala Lumpur. Will i be endorsed to another carrier too? How early should i be there?

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    3. Yes, you should be endorsed to another carrier. Be sure to arrive 3 to 4 hours in advance to ensure that you are at the top of the stand-by list and to allow sufficient time to transfer to your new airline. You could go to the airport today to speak with Zest Air staff at the airport to find out which flight you are being endorsed to and when you should arrive.

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    4. Thank you for the reply .

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  3. I have flight on sep1 from manila to kota kinabalu with my daughter to meet my husband on kotakinabalu and his flight was also on sep1 from singapore and we have our connecting flights and already booked hotel accommodation on that date for 3 days.. i called them the office and the hotlines already and as of waiting for 30 minutes i got the chance to talked to their agent and she told me that they will do their best for their customers so i just hope that they will hold on to that promise as i dont have any chpice but to hope... but i still feel uneasy... hope they can contact me soon...pls zest air...tq

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    Replies
    1. While there are no guarantees, it is quite likely that everything will be resolved well before September. I can assure you from personal experience that they are doing their best and that at the very least, you will be endorsed to another carrier if the airline is still not operating by then. Just arrive early and prepare for last minute changes. If they are still not operating by the end of this week or early next week, you might consider obtaining a refund and booking with another carrier if you want everything guaranteed.

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    2. Ok thanks for the reply... but im not hoping for a refund coz i book those flights early of may so as we all know early booking is cheaper... and if they would refund it to me i cant book a flight as cheap as it is on the month of may... its expensive already.... i just want them to give me another airlines for that cancelled flight as what their agentin sm north told me...

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  4. Fly with Zest...goodluck!

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  5. I have a flight scheduled this sept 11. I tweeted zestair asking for a full refund for me just to make an assurance of a hussle free travel. Am i entitled for a full refund? Please help. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, you are entitled to a full refund if your flight was officially cancelled. However, it is recommended that you visit a Zest Air ticket office or phone the customer care line to formally request your refund. There is still a strong possibility that Zest Air will be operating again before September.

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  6. NEWS HEARD THAT YOUR ZEST AIR FLIGHTS SUSPENDED STARTING FRIDAY AUGUST 16 2013..SURPRISE TO HEAR BECAUSE I BOUGHT MY TICKET FRIDAY AFTERNOON...MY QUESTION IS WHY DID THE FPMC AGENT DID NOT INFORM US??? I NEED TO GO AS SCHEDULED AUGUST 21 WEDNESDAY OUR FLIGHT FROM MANILA TO CAGAYAN DE ORO...BUT IF SCHEDULED STILL CANCELLED??WE NEED A FULL REFUND 6,400 PESOS..PLS RESPONSE AS BECAUSE TOMORROW IS OUR SCHEDULE....ASAP ...THANK U SO MUCH

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    Replies
    1. We are an independent aviation news blog. We are not Zest Air. You will need to contact them directly for any refunds. However, you should also know that the suspension was lifted on Monday and there is a chance that your flight may operate as scheduled. If not, you can also be endorsed to another carrier.

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  7. Hi good day.... I'm scheduled today from cagayan de oro to manila @1740hrs....I need an update in my flight as soon as possible to arrange my delayed matters.... thanks...

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    Replies
    1. If you go to the airport, you can be endorsed to another carrier.

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  8. i have a flight this october 20 for kota kinabalu.. will everything be solved by that time? i am still planning to book zest air dvo-manila since i dont like to hop from one terminal to another... i really want an assurance... i have been calling the costumer service but its been 10 min and no answer.

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    Replies
    1. The wait times to reach customer service have typically averaged around 30 minutes. However, you should not be concerned as the suspension was already lifted effective Monday night. You should be fine for a flight in October.

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  9. Hi.i have a flight tom august 21 at 8:45am manila to cebu,what should i do?

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    Replies
    1. You should head to the airport. While the suspension was already lifted, it will likely take time for full operations to resume. But if you go to the airport, Zest Air will at least endorse you to another airline. Just ensure that you arrive early so that you are at the top of the stand by list.

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  10. I want to ask if have a flight tomorrow manila to kota kinabalu?i need a clear answer now please..?

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    Replies
    1. It is unlikely that your flight will be operating tomorrow given the weather and that Zest flight operations are slowly resuming. You can try to go to the airport to see if you can be endorsed to another carrier. Otherwise, request a refund or reschedule your flight. Many flights were cancelled out of Manila today.

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  11. my flight is on august 31 from manila going to cagayan de oro. I just want to know if the flight on this date is suspended or not.please gve us also your cntact numbers.thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Given the lifting of the suspension of Zest Air flights on Monday evening, it is likely that your flight on August 31 will not be affected. You can contact Zest via their 24/7 hotline: +63.2742.2742

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    2. thank u so much po.

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  12. my flight is tomorrow Aug. 21 .2013 (12pm)
    MANILA-CDO and my father flight is also TOMORROW Aug 21. 2013 (2:45pm) CDO-MANILA

    IS THERE ANY CANCELATION ON THE SAID FLIGHTS

    NEED YOUR REPLY ASAP :)
    TNX

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    Replies
    1. Flights may be cancelled due to weather. If Zest Air is unable to operate your flights, head to the airport and you will be endorsed to another carrier.

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  13. i am one of the affected passenger last august 17 , i havent recieve any email from them before I went there, The airport scene was so disgusting, many of the affected passengers are yelling , We have no enough sleep and we are hungry, we are waiting for any improvement, Until 2 am we are advised by the crew that we will go to the Terminal 2 to take the PAL flights. we dont loose our hope, Even after that the zest air still do their part, even my return flight was accomodated by PAL and we are assisted by ZestAir Bacolod staff, I am hoping that it wont happen again Zest Air, so the people will patronize you

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  14. The terribly very first thing that they explore for is reasonable air tickets. There square measure varied on-line tour operators still as airlines that square measure willing to supply cheapest airfare packages.

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  15. i booked a flight last aug. 7 for 9 people round trip on oct 18,2013, until i heard about the suspension. My very first time in ZestAir,l should have listen to my friends that flights in Zestair, has many problems. But anyway please help me, is the suspension lifted already? PLEASE give me the office contact no and address where i can address my questions about our flight. And lastly, where is their airport? thank you so much for the info. Godbless. please reply in my email. jen_mat77@yahoo.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for contacting Philippine Flight Network. We have responded to your questions and comments by e-mail.

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  16. i want to add that i boooked in airasia for the flight to cagayan de oro, but when i print the itinerary i was shock to see its Zestair, can you give me update about this matter.please, thank you

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    Replies
    1. Air Asia and Zest Air are strategic partners. If your flight departs from Manila, you will fly with Zest Air. If you depart from Clark, you will fly with Air Asia.

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  17. I have a flight on September 11. going to Manila I need to know if there is any cancellation on this flight because I need to be there on Sept.11 I have an interview in the U.S embassy on Sept. 12 in the morning. I need to know the details ahead of time. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. All Zest Air flights have resumed to normal operations. Your flight on September 11 should operate as schedued. If you wish to contact Zest Air for updated flight status, please call: +63.2742.2742

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  18. Our flight from Davao to Manila on August 21, 2013 6:45 am was suspended. Hence, we missed all our flights back to US.

    We purchased another tickets worth $1,800 to be able to go back here in
    in the US. We stayed in a hotel for a night which added to our expenses.

    We want a refund. How should we do it?

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  19. My husband too was a passenger at this time, we were able to email them regarding this and guess what they told me I will not be refunded because it does not meet their refund criteria, when in fact they already told me that they already reviewed my case and refund has been approved and I will just wait my bank to debit it to my account.. Hay!

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  20. I want to tell you about how ZestAir treats their customers. My wife and I had 3 flights with this company dec/jan 13/14, and all of them was delayed.
    From Shanghai to Manila on the 25th of december the said the delay was caused by a broken window. But 5 minutes after, it was ready to be boarded. WITHOUT anyone fixing it.
    From Kalibo to Manila 3rd of January, we was delayed for 9 hours. We did not get any information, and after 7 hours we finaly got some water. The ATM didnt work at the airport, so we were dehydrated. Because of this delay, we missed our flight from Manila to Shanghai. So we had to buy new tickets with east china airways, because our flight back to Europe was 4th of January at 1.30 pm.
    ZestAir did not care if we missed that flight, and did not do anything to help us or give us information.
    We got home to Norway, and hoped to get our money back from the insurance company, but we needed a form that said why our flight from Kalibo to Manila was delayed. I have now called, sent email, did the chat on their website 2 months. The say they will fix it, send me the confirmation of the delay. But nothing happends.

    I think they will try to make me stop asking. They just not want to help me. I have heard stories like this before about ZestAir, but did not know that it was this bad. I talked with other people at the airport, and this was the last time they ever booked flight on ZestAir. They had enough of this company. It was not their first time.
    With this letter, I want to warn you about this company. Do NOT use them. You will somehow be ripped of, and treated really bad. Im sure a lot of people can confirm my thoughts.

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