MANILA – Budget carrier Cebu Pacific will not be penalized for the cancellation of more than 100 flights in late April and early this month, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has ruled.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) – the parent agency of CAB – said that despite the cancellation of dozens of flights, affected passengers’ concerns were found to be handled properly by Cebu Pacific in compliance with the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.
“Thus, imposition of penalties was not considered at present,” it said.
Cebu Pacific applied for cancellation of 172 one-way domestic flights from April 28 through May 10, 2019.
The canceled flights are equivalent to about 14 flights a day, out of its more or less 400 daily domestic flights.
“While the Board understands the cancellations as a recuperative measure for the airline, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla points out that it cannot be made at the expense of the riding public,” the DOTr said.
With this, the CAB has ordered Cebu Pacific to submit within 30 days a concrete plan detailing corrective measures in its operations to prevent further inconvenience to passengers.
The order proceeds from the report submitted by CAB to the DOTr after the conduct of two formal hearings to explain circumstances behind the flight cancellations.
CAB, likewise, prescribes that a stern warning be given to Cebu Pacific to exercise diligence necessary in maintaining stability and reliability of air transport service to the riding public, the DOTr said.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade emphasized that the formulation of a concrete plan will help the whole airline sector to address similar issues that might occur in the future.
“We are hoping that Cebu Pacific will immediately comply with the order to resolve this issue. Hindi na natin maibabalik pa ‘yung dinulot na inconvenience these cancellations have caused. But moving forward, we aim to have more substantial actions so that our passengers will not have to suffer,” Tugade said.
In the investigation held on May 2 and May 6, 2019, Cebu Pacific cited that ongoing efforts to improve on-time performance (OTP) have led to its decision to cancel hundreds of flights, the DOTr said.
During the hearings, Cebu Pacific noted reasons for the downturn in its on-time performance.
The airline explained that the time it takes from the aircraft’s closing of doors to actual lift-off can reach as long as 66 minutes: 19.6 minutes of which is spent from the closing of doors to the ‘blocks off’ or the time the aircraft vacates the parking position; while 46.6 minutes from the blocks off to the lift-off, the DOTr said.
Meanwhile, the shortest time between closing of doors and actual lift-off is at 49 minutes, it added.
“The hour-long stay on the tarmac was observed to have pushed Cebu Pacific’s OTP to an average of 51.16 percent, with lows of around 30 percent in March,” the DOTr said.
“This record, according to Cebu Pacific during the hearings, impelled the airline to finally come up with the decision to cancel flights,” it said.
It said that the flight cancellations will “create space” in their flight and crew inventory, “make way for operational recovery,” and “minimize rolling delays.”
The airline made clear that the factors adversely affecting its OTP are largely within its internal operational sphere.
To further analyze the circumstances, CAB scrutinized several areas such as airline assets and crew.
In terms of assets, the CAB found Cebu Pacific adequately equipped.
The airline even has among the younger fleets among Philippine carriers. Additionally, Cebu Pacific is set to receive three more new aircrafts in the future.
For its crew, CAB questioned Cebu Pacific on its compliance with the regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), to which the airline responded affirmatively.
“The Board was convinced with the scenario that the additional time spent by on-duty crew on the tarmac consumes the working hours and reserves that were supposed to be utilized at a much later schedule,” the DOTr said.
“Hence, it is in this sense that CAB finds Cebu Pacific to have ‘crewing problem’,” it said.
Tugade has directed the daily publication of airline OTP in major airports nationwide. (GMA News)