PASAY CITY – Due to the recent spate of flight cancellations, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has ordered Cebu Pacific to submit within thirty (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 Department of Transportation (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.
Cebu Pacific applied for cancellation of 172 one-way domestic flights from 28 April through 10 May 2019. This is equivalent to about 14 flights a day, out of its more or less 400 daily domestic flights.
DOTr 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,” Secretary Tugade said.
In the investigation held on 2 May and 6 May 2019, Cebu Pacific cited that ongoing efforts to improve on-time performance (OTP) have led to its decision to cancel hundreds of flights.
For the DOTr’s part, Secretary Tugade has directed the daily publication of airline OTP in major airports nationwide.
Declining On-time Performance
During the hearings, Cebu Pacific noted reasons for the downturn in its on-time performance. It 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. Meanwhile, the shortest time between closing of doors and actual lift-off is at 49 minutes.
The hour-long stay on the tarmac was observed to have pushed Cebu Pacific’s OTP to an average of 51.16%, with lows of around 30% in March.
This record, according to Cebu Pacific during the hearings, impelled the airline to finally come up with the decision to cancel flights. 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, 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. Hence, it is in this sense that CAB finds Cebu Pacific to have "crewing problem."
Meanwhile, 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.
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.
"We want to remind airlines to consider the welfare of its passengers by avoiding short notice. The people have paid for these flights and have made their schedules accordingly. While we understand the corrective measures being made to improve OTP, maximum effort should be done so that these measures are not at the expense of our passengers,” Executive Director Arcilla said.