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CebuPac seeks clarification on P52.1-M fine

MANILA, Philippines - Publicly listed Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) of taipan John Gokongwei is seeking clarification on how the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) arrived at the P52.11-million fine imposed on the budget airline.

Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs Jorenz Tañada said in a text message that the airline has yet to receive an official communication from the CAB pertaining to the fine.

“We would like to understand the basis for the fine so we would be guided moving forward,” Tanada said.

On Monday, the CAB Board slapped a P52.11-million fine on Cebu Pacific over complaints of flight delays and cancellations during the Christmas holidays.

CAB director Jose Victor Luciano pointed out that the regulator has decided to impose a punitive fine on Cebu Pacific after receiving thousands of complaints for flight delays and cancellations that started on Dec. 24.

A total of 10,400 passengers were affected by the flight delays and cancellations. The CAB Board decided to impose a P5,000 fine for every affected passenger.

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For his part, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said that the agency decided to issue a strong reprimand to Cebu Pacific on top of the hefty fine.

Arcilla said the CAB Board also required Cebu Pacific to establish and maintain appropriate service standards for all its personnel, organic and outsourced, especially those manning the check-in counters.

“The fine is based on a finding by the Board that Cebu Pacific’s operational lapses and passenger mishandling constitute a breach of the basic condition of its CPCP, i.e., to provide proper, suitable, convenient, safe, adequate and reliable air transportation services,” he said.

During the hearing, Arcilla said, Cebu Pacific clung to its arguments that while it committed lapses in the handling of passengers, the main contributory factor to the disruption was air traffic congestion and terminal infrastructure deficiencies.

“After considering all available data and arguments, the Board concluded that the main culprit was Cebu Pacific’s operational lapses and mishandling of passengers,” he added.

According to him, fines collected by the CAB for violations of Republic Act 776, otherwise known as the Civil Aeronautics Act of the Philippines, are remitted to the national coffers.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya ordered a full blown investigation on the incident wherein long queues at the Cebu Pacific counters caused chaos at the international gateway.

Data submitted by Cebu Pacific to the investigating panel showed that a total of 288 flights were delayed while 20 flights were cancelled between Dec. 24 and Dec. 26.

Of the 145 flights scheduled last Dec. 24, Cebu Pacific said 102 were delayed while 13 were cancelled. On Christmas day, 79 of the total 149 flights were delayed while three were called off. On Dec. 26, Cebu Pacific said 107 of the 145 scheduled flights were delayed while four flights were cancelled.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares yesterday claimed that the P52-million fine imposed Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) on Cebu Pacific was not enough and the affected passengers should be compensated for the more than 100 flights that were delayed last Christmas season.

Colmenares said they are not satisfied with the P52-million fine imposed on Cebu Pacific by the CAB.

He said the fine should not even go to the government but should instead be used to compensate the thousands of stranded passengers that suffered due to the delayed and cancelled flights.

“This is nothing compared to the P2.1-billion net profit of Cebu Pacific in 2014. Barya lang ito sa Cebu Pacific and a mere slap on the wrist for their continuing offenses,” said Colmenares.

He said that it is just fair that the passengers themselves should also be compensated for the hardship they experienced.

“There should be compensation for the affected passengers and the fine should not go to the government because they have not acted on similar complaints for so long. Also the compensation for each passenger should at least be equal to his/her airfare,” said Colmenares.

He also explained that Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, had already talked with him and scheduled the hearing on his privilege speech and resolution on the issue on Jan. 20.

“I am also glad that Rep. Sarmiento said that it would be no less than Cebu Pacific chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei would come as a resource person so that he can answer the query of the people,” Colmenares said.  – With Edith Regalado

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