DOTC vows smooth, orderly travel
Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The government will work for a more orderly exodus of travelers from Metro Manila for the New Year, especially after the problems at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 and the traffic congestion on expressways, Malacañang said yesterday.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya disclosed that President Aquino called to ask him what happened at NAIA 3, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing.

Lacierda said the President inquired about the reports of unmanned counters, delayed flights and overbooking.

He also said Abaya would be meeting with Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) executive director Edmund Reyes on the first week of January “because there are technological solutions” to the problems on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

He said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) chief was studying everything to avoid the situations that occurred on Christmas Day and on Dec. 26.

Lacierda added they could understand the complaints and the grievances of passengers, especially of Cebu Pacific because “it’s a time to go home and be with your loved ones.”

He said this was the reason why an investigation was launched by various agencies on the issues involving the budget airline.

DOTC ‘not satisfied’ with CebuPac

In a television interview, Abaya said he is not satisfied with the explanation of Cebu Pacific (Cebu Air, Inc.) on the “nightmare” experienced by passengers during the Christmas rush.

Cebu Pacific should have prepared a contingency plan to accommodate and address the needs of passengers especially during the holiday season, he said.

He added that the failure of the staff of Cebu Pacific due to alleged fatigue is not an acceptable reason.

Abaya pointed out that the DOTC has tasked the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to look into the possible revision of the Civil Aeronautics Act, as well as the Air Passenger Bill of Rights, to protect the riding public.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares meanwhile said yesterday that the House of Representatives should investigate the CAB for failing to protect airline passengers.

“CAB should not be allowed to escape accountability since dismal airline service has been going on for a long time,” Colmenares said.

For his part, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said a panel has been formed to look into the liability of Cebu Pacific amid the rising number of complaints from passengers.

Passengers were up in arms particularly last Dec. 24 due to the long queues as well as the delays and cancellations of several Cebu Pacific flights.

The low-cost carrier is facing at least 14 complaints from its passengers.

Arcilla said the panel composed of CAB, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) would convene early January to look into the documents and reports to be submitted by Cebu Pacific.

Jose Angel Honrado, MIAA general manager, said initial investigation showed that 142 flights were delayed last Dec. 24, a hundred of which belonged to Cebu Pacific.

Honrado also observed that the check-in counters of Cebu Pacific were undermanned, resulting in long queues.

According to him, the regulator is not buying the excuse of Cebu Pacific that the delays and flight cancellations were caused by air traffic congestion and bad weather.

The CAB is looking at disallowing overbooking during peak seasons, such as during the Christmas holidays, to avoid the “bumping off” of passengers. Present rules allow airlines to overbook 10 percent of total seats to serve as buffer in case passengers fail to show up on time.

Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs Jorenz Tañada earlier said that the airline would cooperate with any investigation to be undertaken by the government.

The Gokongwei-led airline flew 13.94 million passengers in the first 10 months of the year, or 15.7 percent higher compared to the 12.04 million passengers in the same period last year.

Aside from the long queues, delayed flights and overbooking, Colmenares said that the congressional investigation would also look into issues of cancelled flights; expensive rebooking fees and penalties, although upon cancellation or changing of flight schedules by the airline management, no penalties or refund are given to the passengers; and deceptively low initial base fare offers that shoot up due to big tax amounts and surcharges.

“Also, airlines in many instances do not use the passenger tube even if the passengers have paid for its use, making it difficult for the elderly and the sick as they would have to go down the tarmac,” he said.


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