Our family had gotten so used to flying Cebu Pacific that for this trip to Laoag, Ilocos Norte, we didn’t even bother to check the other airline skeds and details. So far, aside from probably one delayed flight to Tagbilaran (out of so many flights taken), our experience has been okay so far.

If you go blog-hopping though, you will notice that various readers and bloggers rant about delayed flights, overbookings, and refunds long delayed. The question is raised as to why Cebu Pacific continues to do good business despite the fact that customer service is wanting and my answer is that there is really no good alternative. Philippine Airlines likewise gets delayed. Just recently, people have not been able to book online with PAL for their fare promos. There are just too many people who want to fly and if some travelers get disgusted with how Cebu Pacific runs its business, then there are other unaffected passengers (yet) who would only be too willing to take up the plane space. Until an alternative offers the market low airfares, on-time flights, and good customer service in the true sense of the word, then I guess Cebu Pacific will still be there, seemingly unmindful of the numerous complaints and rants that their paying customers dish out.

Anyway, we are getting ahead of our story.

Cebu Pacific does not fly to Laoag, Ilocos Norte daily. Since we wanted to stay in Ilocos for four days, we had to find a block of four days to fly from and back to Manila. We then booked ourselves on a Thursday evening flight to Laoag, then subsequently flying back to Manila on a Sunday night.

As we checked in for our flight to Laoag at NAIA 3, the Cebu Pacific staff looked dazed. She appeared confused by something and as we belatedly checked our boarding passes (also our fault, we didn’t check them before leaving her), we realized that the four of us (2 adults, a 12-year old boy, and a 7-year old girl!) were all given separate seats. I approached a Cebu Pacific staff near the gate where we were supposed to Board the plane to bring up my problem. He then told me to just discuss the issue with the flight attendant when I board the plane. He and his two female Cebu Pacific staff companions were concerned with something else (more on this later) so I guess, he was only to happy to cut his conversation with me short.

I then told my 7-year old daughter that I will fix the situation so that she could sit with me. For now, she is going to be seated beside a stranger. She looked at me, her eyes glaring as I suppose she was intelligent enough to probably be employed by Cebu Pacific (by the way, the staff who checked us in didn’t say a peep or didn’t explain the situation to us. She probably hoped that we would not notice until the last minute or that we wouldn’t mind) so that they could deliver better service: “You are going to let me sit beside a stranger? What if it’s a BAD stranger?”

Our flight was supposed to leave at 6:10 pm and we were supposed to board the plane at 5:40 pm. Such times came and went with no explanation whatsoever from Cebu Pacific as to what was causing the delay. As we waited at the airport, we heard announcement after announcement of Cebu Pacific flights being delayed, saw that the flight to Caticlan was cancelled, etc., etc.

We finally left an hour and a half later (past 7pm, almost 8pm) and so we reached Ilocos so late at night. It was a good thing we had some snacks earlier in the afternoon so we survived.

What was the cause of the delay? Onboard the plane, the pilot said something (which I did not hear or understand), but at the airport, it was clear that the three Cebu Pacific staff members (the guy and the two ladies I wrote about earlier) were exerting effort to get people not to board that particular Ilocos flight. They actually approached my husband, with one of the girls saying: “Sige na sir, mag-volunteer na kayo…” (Please sir, please volunteer) to which I responded by reminding them of my “separate seats” problem. I mean, basic lesson in marketing, you do not ask an already irritated and disgruntled customer to do you a favor. We watched the three approach passenger after passenger and from one of my husband’s officemates (who was also on the same flight and who had been approached by the three earlier too), we heard that Cebu Pacific had overbooked the flight with about five passengers.

They approached a couple; several individuals; about two businesspersons (who were overheard saying after: Sige, papayag kami pero dalhin ninyo yung ka meeting namin dito — alright, we’ll agree but you bring the people we are meeting with here to Manila); and a family of several adults and kids. They were asking people if they could just take the Ilocos Norte flight the next day. On the bus on the way to the plane, the person seated next to us was saying that had their group been offered a ticket to HongKong instead of a domestic flight also, they would have taken it. So, to entice people to take the next flight, they were offering a free ticket?

What happened to our seat problem? Well, we luckily found out that my husband’s officemate and my husband were seated right next to each other. We then swapped boarding passes so my 7-year old daughter and I could sit together. My husband was seated somewhere else, same with my 12-year old son who is already old enough to handle himself. So I suppose, the seating problem also stemmed from the overbooking. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

On the way home from Laoag, the experience was better, with the Cebu Pacific staff giving all four of us seats in a single row (just to make sure, I already indicated that I would like all of us to be seated all together right at the outset since I cannot assume that all people are as rationale nor as logical as they are supposed to be) and the flight was only delayed by about twenty minutes.

What did this experience teach us? Never assume. Always spell things out. For the next trip, check out the other airlines too. My officemate has been taking Zest Air recently and is quite happy with her experience. Maybe, we’ll check out Zest Air next time. You can book online too.

If you would still like to book via Cebu Pacific for your future trips, you can find them at www.cebupacificair.com But really now, Cebu Pacific should start re-thinking its tag line. It’s not enough to just have everyone flying. It’s time everyone flies… on time and It’s time everyone flies… happily.

One Response to “Cebu Pacific”

  1. auee Says:

    We encountered a similar problem on our way to Netherlands for our connecting flight to Manila.

    We were issued duplicate boarding passes. Buti di malayo yung counter sa immigration. But it messed up the airmiles for my husband.

    Tama ka, never assume and just because “seasoned” traveler ka na, still check your papers.

    From LipadNa: Mismo. Thanks!

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