CAB: Airlines reducing flights to address woes

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
CAB: Airlines reducing flights to address woes
CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla could not say in an interview yesterday how extensive the flight reductions would be.
Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Flight interruptions that have plagued the country’s airlines due to the grounding of bigger aircraft in their fleets have no instant fix, so the only viable remedy to alleviate their predicament for now is to reduce the number of flights, according to the Civil Aeronautics Board.

CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla could not say in an interview yesterday how extensive the flight reductions would be.

Arcilla, in another interview, refuted allegations of overbooking against leading airlines, emphasizing that a shortage in aircraft equipment and parts is the root cause of the flight disruptions.

As airlines grapple with the scarcity in aircraft equipment and parts, larger commercial planes like the Airbus A321neos remain parked for necessary inspections and repairs.

CAB has looked into the spate of customer complaints, mostly on flight cancellations, filed against domestic carriers.

Based on its investigation, CAB found out that some passengers were offloaded from their flights as a result of downgrading, in which a smaller aircraft is used in place of the larger one originally assigned to the flight.

Those offloaded would later learn that their flight went on as scheduled, so they presume that they were victims of overbooking.

Since such is the case, Arcilla said the actual situation is far from overbooking or when airlines sell seat tickets more than the capacity of the aircraft.

At present, the shortage in aviation equipment and parts has adversely affected airlines not just here but also abroad, he said. As such, carriers are forced to park their larger units until their parts are checked and repaired.

Consequently, airlines deploy smaller aircraft to complete the flights that had already been booked, offloading passengers in the process since the seating capacity had decreased, Arcilla explained.

As a protocol, the CAB official said airlines are mandated in incidents like this to prioritize the vulnerable sectors, such as senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

On the other hand, operators pick who takes the remaining seats through the use of a random generator from a computer.

Nevertheless, Arcilla vowed that CAB will tighten its oversight against overbooking in response to the mounting complaints on flight cancellations. CAB penalizes airlines guilty of such an offense by reducing their landing and takeoff slots similar to what it did to a carrier in January.

Meantime, CAB wants policymakers to return the limit on overbooking.

In a separate interview, Arcilla proposed that an overbooking cap of five to 10 percent be slapped to sanction carriers which tend to sell seats beyond the capacity of an aircraft.

Domestic operators Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are experiencing delays in the repair of jet engines made by aviation supplier Pratt & Whitney, leaving them with no choice but to take some of their aircraft out of service.

‘Fire them all’

Yesterday, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez urged President Marcos to fire all the officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and CAB due to the aviation mess.

Rodriguez also said the President should drop the ax on Department of Transportation officials directly supervising the CAAP and CAB, noting how these officials have failed to fulfill their respective mandates to the detriment of air passengers.

“The ongoing air transportation or aviation mess is due to the failure of these agencies to faithfully and satisfactorily carry out their mandates. They are guilty of negligence for failing or refusing to sanction Cebu Pacific for its lousy service to the riding public,” he said.

Last June 9, a power outage hit Ninoy Aquino International Airport which lasted for half an hour. This happened just a little over a month after a power interruption also hit the country’s leading gateway, hampering its operations for hours.

According to Rodriguez, CAAP has failed to properly maintain the operational and navigational system of NAIA and “proof of that is the recent glitches that exposed plane passengers to grave danger.”

“This matter involves not only passenger safety but national security as well,” he stressed.

He identified the CAAP officials he believes should be sacked as Manuel Antonio Tamayo, director general; Mark Nester Mendoza, corporate secretary; Danjun Lucas, deputy director general for administration and Edgardo Diaz, deputy director general for operations.

Rodriguez also lobbied for the firing of CAB officials Arcilla and Porvenir Porciuncula, the deputy executive director.

The irony of it, he said, is that Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista and Undersecretary for aviation and airports Roberto Lim are both former airline and air transportation association executives who served in the industry for many years.

“With their wealth of knowledge and experience, the public expects much from them. They should sort out this mess about delayed flights, cancelled flights, overbooking and airport glitches. They should not wait for the President to order them to do so,” Rodriguez said.


Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe demanded reports from both the CAAP and CAB on the incidents to ensure the protection of air passengers’ rights and the enforcement of penalties against airlines during flight disruptions.

As chair of the public services committee, Poe expressed concern over gaps in CAB regulations that allow airlines to overbook and cancel flights without facing significant consequences.

“It was surprising to hear the gaps in the regulations of CAB that allow for overbooking and cancellations without much consequence on the part of the airlines, so we will also ask them to explain that,” she said.

Poe also requested a report from CAAP on their maintenance procedures and contingency plans in light of the ongoing supply chain issues. The results of the inquiry may lead to the revision or revocation of airline franchises.

Poe emphasized the need for stringent oversight, stating: “No oversight is too drastic when it is for the public good.”

During a joint hearing conducted by the Senate public services and tourism committees, Arcilla acknowledged that overbooking occurs due to the lack of limits imposed by the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.

For his part, Sen. Francis Escudero emphasized the importance of passing an enabling law to strengthen passenger rights.

Cebu Pacific’s chief commercial officer Alexander Lao issued an apology during the hearing, citing “freak incidents” such as lightning strikes and delivery delays of jet engines from suppliers. — Sheila Crisostomo, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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