Stranded and upset
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 26, 2019 - 12:00am

Imagine yourself wrapping up a short vacation on Camiguin Island and then you receive a text message two hours before your flight from the airline you are booked on that says: “Good morning Maam/Sir, we regret to inform you that your flight on Sky Jet today 24 June 2019 is cancelled due to technical discrepancy. Kindly proceed to the check-in counter for compensation and rebooking of your ticket.”

That of course is all within the realm of possibilities for anyone flying in the Philippines and is no big if you are in a major airport or hub such as Manila, Cebu or Davao. But if you’re in Camiguin the alternatives or options are very limited and the only alternative for tourists especially foreigners is to catch a flight to Cebu or jump on the ferry to Cagayan de Oro and fly to Manila from there. One of our expat friends went through that very experience and it is something that the Civil Aviation Board, Department of Tourism and Department of Trade and Industry should investigate and act on.

The financial loss caused by an airline to its passengers should be studied and an annual figure arrived at because these cancellations happen too often and passengers lose more money directly than the airlines do. In this day and age of social media, it is also such bad business practice that gives the Philippines a black eye and losses in tourism revenues. Below is the email sent by our Australian friend whose vacation was totally spoiled by Sky Jet:

Hi Cito, 

Yesterday I had the WORST airline experience I have ever had. Karen asked that I send you an email. 

Yesterday I was booked on Sky Jet flight M8512 from Camiguin to Manila. It was cancelled. We were notified only by text less than two hours before the flight was supposed to be leaving. This is the first time that I have not been called by an airline when they cancelled a flight. We then called their number and they could not help and I needed to proceed to the airport. 

At the airport, we were then told that they cannot rebook the flight and that they will only be giving P2,000 compensation and then they passed us a waiver to sign. The waiver states that by accepting this compensation that I waive all rights to further compensation and the right to sue for damages and losses occurred as a result of the flight cancelation. 

Of course we did not sign this as at minimum by law according to the passenger bill of rights published by the DOTC-DTI, is that the airline needs to provide amenities (meals, accommodation, and transfers), to be reimbursed (fare, taxes and surcharges), to be endorsed to another carrier without paying any fare difference, to rebook the flight without any additional charges. When we showed the staff this, all three of the staff just sat there and said they can’t help and we need to contact customer care. Then we called customer care and they said we needed to go to the airport. This was the WORST customer service I have ever experienced in my life. 

In my opinion, I actually think that this waiver is not legal as the airline is using this to get around providing the customer their basic rights. I think that this is actually criminal and I don’t understand how the Philippines would allow this. This would definitely not be tolerated in Australia. For example Tiger Airlines was trying something similar in Australia and was banned from many of its cities and I think it is only allowed to operate in one or two and they have to follow the law in those few cities. 

We then had to book another ticket last minute through Philippine Airlines that went through Cebu at an additional cost for two people including service charge of over P26,000. I noticed that the Philippine Airlines staff at the airport were more helpful than the Sky Jet staff in helping customers that were stranded with no assistance. 

I am a frequent traveller and have had many flights cancelled in the past but have NEVER experienced customer service this bad. Just this year I had a Qantas flight from Manila to Sydney canceled due to a mechanical issue and was rebooked on a Cathay Pacific flight and accommodated in Resorts World while waiting over seven hours. I also had a nine-hour delay on Malaysian Airlines and they provided accommodation at a hotel in KL, provided transfers, dinner and breakfast. Even recently my luggage was lost for one and a half days when flying with Cebu Pacific and they provided the required compensation in cash on the spot of P3,000 and refund of the check baggage fees. 

When other airlines have to abide by the rules I don’t understand how Sky Jet can get away with not providing the customer their basic rights. I feel that they must be paying bribes to someone for this to be allowed. Reading online Trip Adviser, Facebook and Google reviews this has happened before and is a recurring problem and it is mainly Filipinos that are paying the price for this as I wouldn’t call the destinations that they fly to major tourist destinations, so this affects mainly local people many of whom would not be able to pay P26,000 to rebook the flight on another airline last minute and be left stranded with no help whatsoever. 

I have attached a copy of the waiver that they gave us to sign and the bill of rights for the passenger. If you have any questions feel free to ask. 

Thanks from Tiffany.

(Editor' Note: In the interest of fairness, Philippine STAR will give space to Sky Jet’s side on the matter.)

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