Cebu Pacific Fined P52 Million for Holiday Disaster, Airline to Dispute Charges

Cebu Pacific, the nation's largest low-cost carrier, has been fined P52 million by the Philippine government after its recent holiday disaster that saw hundreds of flights cancelled or delayed over a span of several days during the peak travel period.

Copyright Photo: AFP
According to Victor Luciano of the Civil Aeronautics Board, Cebu Pacific was found in violation of its certificate of public convenience and necessity. The airline was fined based on the 10,400 passengers that were affected by the operational glitches from December 23 to 26. This represents a P5,000 fine for each affected passenger as directed under the Civil Aeronautics Act of the Philippines, which served as the basis of the penalty.

"After considering all available data and arguments, the Board concluded that the main culprit was Cebu Pacific's operational lapses and mishandling of passengers," said Carmelo Arcilla, Executive Director of the Civil Aeronautics Board. "The Board also required Cebu Pacific to establish and maintain appropriate service standards for all its personnel, organic, and out-sourced, especially those manning the check-in counters."

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and Manila International Airport Authority support the decision of the Civil Aeronautics Board, agreeing that Cebu Pacific's management is to blame. "They are in public service and high absenteeism is not a reason for flight delays and cancellations," said Luciano. "The airline is being irresponsible and it should not happen again."

However, Cebu Pacific refuses to accept the blame, insisting that the airport chaos was due to congestion and bad weather. In a statement released following the issuance of the fine by the Civil Aeronautics Board, Cebu Pacific stated, "We have received CAB Resolution No. 4, and we are currently in the process of reviewing the document, and its attendant legal ramifications," said Cebu Pacific. "We note that there may be some matters of fact requiring clarification, and are evaluating all our options accordingly."

Between December 24 and 26, Cebu Pacific cancelled 20 flights and delayed another 288 at NAIA Terminal 3 over the busy Christmas period, which stranded thousands of travellers. The Civil Aeronautics Board says that Cebu Pacific will have the opportunity to appeal the penalty.

However, Cebu Pacific is earning little sympathy from lawmakers, workers, or the travelling public. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines blamed the December woes on outsourcing and the hiring of contractual workers, which led to a breakdown in Cebu Pacific's service. 

"The damage could have been greatly minimized--financially and reliability--if the situation was handled and managed by regular workers," said Gerard Seno, Executive Vice President of the TUCP. "There is a big difference between the quality of work rendered by a regular worker than an outsourced and contractual one."

Unfortunately for passengers, the fine that is being imposed on Cebu Pacific appears to be headed for the national treasury, rather than as compensation for passengers. Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla was quoted as stating that the fine would go to the national treasury in spite of the passenger complaints.

Some lawmakers believe that the Civil Aeronautics Board is not doing enough to protect passengers. Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani said that Cebu Pacific's holiday blunder is becoming an all too common occurrence, and that many airlines are guilty of causing passenger inconvenience by cancelling flights, delaying departures and arrivals, or charging excessive rebooking fees and penalties.

In addition, it was noted that passengers never get refunds when air carriers change or cancel flight schedules. Even when they are entitled to refunds, they are rarely provided in a timely manner. In spite of this lengthy list of violations, the lawmakers stated that the Civil Aeronautics Board "has failed to protect the interest of airline passengers up until now."

Colmenares says that the Civil Aeronautics Board is also accountable for the dismal service of the nation's airlines. "While it is good that the CAB will already start their investigation to get to some of the details of the continued inconvenience of airline passengers, I think that the CAB should also be probed for not doing its duty to regulate these airlines and protect airline passengers," said Colmenares.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya seems to agree citing that the Civil Aeronautics Act of the Philippines, which was established in 1952, needs to be revisited. According to Abaya, his office will be asking lawmakers to revise outdated penalties for carrier violations. 

"Back then, P5,000 for each violation was a good deterrent. Nowadays, P5,000 is something they'll laugh at," said Abaya. "There is a need to amend the law. I think we should get back to the old Civil Aeronautics Act, which was approved in the 1950's."

He added that regulators need to also review the overbooking policy of carriers, which is currently being allowed. "Maybe we should step in with regard to overbooking," said Abaya. "The flying public deserves much better service than that. We sympathize with those who lost precious hours with their families and loved ones on Christmas, and we will see to it that Cebu Pacific will answer for any possible mismanagement."


  1. Good it's about time this airline was fined for the way it treats its passengers. HOW THEY TREATED THEIR PASSENGERS OVER THE XMAS AND NEW YEAR SEASON WAS DISGRACEFUL

  2. "I'd rather go to Philippine Flight Network or even CAPA than this piece of shit blog."

    Funny that you are commenting on a article from Philippine Flight Network.

  3. Meant to say Philippine Air Space.

  4. too little too late, they won't change until their inevitable loss of aircraft. lets just start small, like posting the passenger bill of rights at every check in counter. An informed passenger is a formidable weapon.

    1. "Inevitable loss of aircraft"? Shame on you for having no respect for human life! Fine, if u want to play this kind of stupidity, then here's a big cheers to your inevitable deadly car crash! Good riddance!

  5. How can i take you seriously? I was literally saying "HA HA HA" when you said that you rather go to PFN and later then say its a piece of shit blog when you just contradicted yourself on your own sentence.

  6. I think the reason why 5J is such a shitty airline is because it is owned & run by a Filipino-Chinese! Yes, I know that sounded racist, but let me explain by merely stating the obvious. Big business in the Philippines is dominated by the Filipino-Chinese, so-called tycoons, yet none of these businesses can lay claim to superb quality & service. Let's take a look at real estate for example. Not one single real estate development company owned by a Filipino-Chinese can proudly boast a reputation of first-class quality & service. Megaworld, SMDC, Robinsons (another Gokongwei corp), etc, etc… all SUCK big time, from construction quality to post-handover maintenance & support. If you want high quality in this sector, you go for Ayala or Rockwell - the top two developers in the country, both not owned by Filipino-Chinese. But that's not to say that other non-Fil-Chi developers are great either (Villar's company as an example, or in another industry - Globe Telecom, an Ayala company), but we can't escape the fact that Filipino-Chinese businesses cannot deliver a quality product or service. Even PAL, another tycoon-owned entity, which although marginally better than 5J, is still one of the shittiest full-service airlines in the world. What about the malls? SM & Robinsons are not quality malls. Again, Rockwell and Ayala are tops here.

    I thought Lance would be better than the other tycoons. After all, he's armed with an Ivy-league degree, and cum laude no less. But I suppose it's the Chinese DNA that's got the better of him. Perhaps the same reason why the "Made in China" label has such a shitty reputation worldwide.

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