Saturday, May 28, 2011

Something unexpected from Cebu Pacific

I've been reading some status updates and comments about Philippine Airlines lately. And they're not on the positive side. My Bibe also had similar experiences with them lately. Then I suddenly remembered a month-old experience with rival airline Cebu Pacific, something that made me smile.


It happened during our trip to Coron last month. Our flight was delayed for more than two hours, and they offered waiting passengers cup noodles. We passed on the gesture, found some place else to eat and while away time. Cebu Pacific has undoubtedly shaken the local airline industry with its Piso fares and endless sales, bold fleet upgrades and more. Today they are the largest in the country.

But with the aggressive expansion and business model shift came flights that were delayed, canceled, and overbooked. Worse, it seemed like they were incapable of handling such incidents. I've read a lot of blogs and comments then, one of which was about a canceled Caticlan-Manila flight. The ground crew could not put them on the next flight because it was also fully booked. And to add insult to injury, they had no provisions for both food and accommodation for the stranded passengers. With PAL, I've experienced being booked at Sheraton Hotel after a flight couldn't land due to zero visibility. So I was scared to fly Cebu Pacific at the time.

Eventually, though, I started flying with them again and so far, I never had a bad experience. So our plane arrived and boarding commenced. To my pleasant surprise, they offered free Jollibee Chicken Joy meals (but without drinks) on the plane! Call me shallow but the smell of fried chicken made me instantly hungry so I got one. Besides, it was totally unexpected, especially of an airline with a bad rep for customer service. I thought about the cup noodles that that was it, but no.

I hope that this small gesture spells the beginning of Cebu Pacific's big leap into better customer service, that it's not just an outlier. I hope that they're not only competitive in terms of pricing but also in terms of valuing their passengers. To be fair, however, it wasn't their fault that the flight was delayed. As confirmed with our driver in Busuanga, it was raining so hard earlier that day that even visibility on the ground was poor. So you're off the hook, Cebu Pacific. Oh, and I'm flying with you again to Hong Kong in two weeks.

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