Cebu Pacific flight 5J-971 aftermath – business as usual in Mediocrestan?

The latest buzz making the rounds among the chattering classes is the mishap involving Cebu Pacific flight 5J-971, how it overshot the runway, and the appalling reaction and handling of the situation by Cebu Pacific crew.

In fact, it has even gone so far that Ateneo De Davao University (ADDU) president Joel Tabora has called for university personnel to boycott Cebu Pacific. Several ADDU personnel were reportedly among the passengers on that flight.

You can read a copy of Fr. Tabora’s letter to Cebu Pacific management here:

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I am ordering that ADDU no longer purchase tickets from Cebu Pacific in protest against the insensitivity and ineptness of the manner in which the Cebu Pacific passengers were ignored and neglected by your personnel last night in an hour of emergency.

The Cebu Pacific personnel failed to give human assistance to the passengers. No instructions were given; no calming words spoken. Instead a pilot of another airline undertook to calm the addulettercebupacpassengers.

It was only after 27 minutes in a smoked cabin that the passengers were allowed to leave the plane by coming down emergency slides. Twenty-seven minutes however without appropriate communications is entirely too long!

I am incensed not because there was a mechanical failure last night, but because of Cebu Pacific’s manifest human failure. Where was your concern for the passengers? Your personnel lack training for an emergency situation.

For her part, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte has expressed utter indignation for the apparent “lack of an emergency plan” by the Davao International Airport. She has also reportedly gone as far as to call Cebu Pacific, and the airport manager liars regarding what really happened last night. There was apparently a power outage at the airport during the time of the incident, and members of Davao City’s emergency unit Central 911 were reportedly barred from entering the compound by the management.

Heads must roll, Duterte was quoted as saying. Not only because of the airport management’s failures, but because the obstructing wreckage of the flight has been causing flights to be cancelled and passengers to be stranded.

As for Cebu Pacific, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has given it an ultimatum to remove the disabled plane supposedly within today, June 4. The investigation by the CAAP has pointed so far to human error as a possible cause of the accident.

With regards to Cebu Pacific, there’s an almost cliché statement that applies very well to them. You get what you pay for. Cebu Pacific is a low cost carrier, but unfortunately that low cost comes at a high price. Perhaps it is really too much to expect from them in terms of customer service, comfortable experience, safety, and the like. I would call these absolute minimums, though. And no, singing and dancing flight attendants are not an acceptable substitute.

Decent customer service is hard to find here in the Philippines. Fellow GRP writer corey shared his experiences with customer service at local hardware stores a few days ago. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard complaints about Cebu Pacific’s horrible customer service either; people I’m connected to on Twitter and Facebook have shared several horror stories and experiences that could only make one’s blood boil while being narrated or read.

A lot have commented on this incident that perhaps Cebu Pacific really needs to train further, or even retrain their flight crew to react to emergency situations. I agree that of all the things that any company wanting to do business, perhaps safety is one of the things that it should not scrimp on. Perhaps Cebu Pacific needs to reevaluate its business model in light of what happened, but I digress…

Even if ADDU does boycott Cebu Pacific, the airline will still find thousands of other Filipino travelers willing to put up with awful customer service, and appalling safety records just to be able to pinch pennies. The question is, why are Filipino customers willing to tolerate such unsatisfactory service just to save on cost at time of purchase. Alas, perhaps Filipinos fail to see the hidden costs associated with buying “cheap” tickets. If even safety is scrimped on, you’re getting the short end of the deal, buddy.

Has it come to mind that Filipinos and Philippine authorities usually follow a detrimental routine when it comes to crisis/disaster management? More often than not, they play “Pin the blame on the donkey” before the situation is solved. While you can’t fault Duterte for being visibly incensed at the airport and the airline for bungling an emergency response, perhaps there was plenty of time for calling people liars and their heads to roll after the whole thing had been sorted out.

While I don’t claim to know how fast an investigation into the crash should really take, the airline, the airport management authority, and the CAAP can’t afford to take their sweet time either. With each passing unit of time more money is lost, more customers are lost, and especially essential parts to determining the root cause of such mishaps may be lost too.

There are things that Filipinos need to think about when mishaps like this strike:

How can this be prevented from happening again?
How can things be made to run more effectively and efficiently?
What can be done better next time?
What systems must be put in place?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current system?

Filipinos have always had the benefit of hindsight, but of course, they are fond of making excuses for their inability to learn from their previous mistakes. “My hands are tied,” or “Someone else is worse off than I am,” or “It’s someone else’s fault!” or “People will lose interest in it anyway,” or “I’m new to this, so don’t expect much,” or one of the worst “That’s all we are allowed to do.”

Life in Mediocrestan continues, without a hitch. Pwede-na-yan, bahala-na, and the culture of impunity will remain unchanged.

[Photo of ADDU letter courtesy of]

6 Replies to “Cebu Pacific flight 5J-971 aftermath – business as usual in Mediocrestan?”

  1. As usual the guys (CAAP) are the ones investigating themselves. Aside from the senate, do we have an independent body that will investigate similar to that of the US?

  2. The answers to the questions asked above are simple.

    The vast majority of Filipino’s are really too poor to afford REAL AIRLINES. CebuPac has old, should have been retired jets/planes and can not afford to service them never mind train and employ competent personnel. Anyone who gets on a Filipino Airline IS RISKING THEIR LIFE. if you can afford a ticket on CATHAY PACIFIC, Japan Ailrines etc, etc DO IT OR roll the dice. JUST DON’T START BITCHING WHEN THE DICE COME UP CRAPS, cheapskate!

    What bothers me is that this BITCH, the MAYOR, knows EXACTLY what is going on and is only pandering to her voters. Getting all indignant but waiting until the TV camera’s are on her before she punches the next person she can blame for anything she imagines is done to her ‘poor constituents’.

    SO, spend some money OR risk your life. BUT, stop the bitching.

    1. Gerry says: June 5, 2013 at 1:09 am:

      “What bothers me is that this BITCH, the MAYOR, knows EXACTLY what is going on and is only pandering to her voters. Getting all indignant but waiting until the TV camera’s are on her before she punches the next person she can blame for anything she imagines is done to her ‘poor constituents’.”

      –hey gerry, how dare you label her that? i hope your soul and your ass are spotless because otherwise you have no right to call her that.or maybe you’re from cebpac!(boom!)

      FYI, just because an official is angry at how an airline company handled a situation does not mean he or she is “pandering to voters”.

      hindi lahat ng politiko trapo, baka ang sa iyo lang. 🙂

      FYI, she did not seek a second term even if she could’ve easily won.

  3. It’s really funny how people are being misled by CebuPac’s cheap flights, without thinking of the additional costs and the fact that the plane is a low-cost one. This is the reason I prefer PAL over CebuPac.

    Costs vs. Convenience? In this case, I’m into convenience.

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