What Filipinos will likely fail to learn from Cebu Pacific Flight 5J-971 to Davao

Following a mishap involving Cebu Pacific Flight 5J-971 overshooting the runway while landing at Davao City airport last Sunday, passengeres were reportedly critical of the way pilots and cabin crew responded to the emergency in the crucial minutes following the mishap. According to passengers, the pilots and crew were unhelpful in the face of “fright and shock” suffered by many of them. They also “seemed to have been stunned by what had just happened that they failed to attend immediately to the passengers.”

Apparently, the unacceptable emergency response from Cebu Pacific personnel did not end at the crash site…

Menard Dacono, 26, a business development manager working in Singapore, said it took a while for the passengers to be evacuated.

“When the passengers reached the terminal, there was no one there from Cebu Pacific to face them,” Dacono said.

“No one from the airline offered an explanation,” he said.

“We were even barred from taking photos of the aircraft,” Dacono said.

Cebu Pacific was established on August 26, 1988, and started operations on March 8, 1996. Republic Act No. 7151, which grants franchise to Cebu Air, Inc. was approved on August 30, 1991. Cebu Air, Inc. was subsequently acquired by JG Summit Holdings (owned by John Gokongwei). Domestic services commenced following market deregulation by the Philippine government. It initially started with 24 domestic flights daily among Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao. By the end of 2001, its operations had grown to about 80 daily flights to 18 domestic destinations.

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In August 2009, Cebu Pacific became the first airline in the Philippines to use social media. The airline has fanpage on Facebook social network and has a Twitter account at @CebuPacificAir. In September 2010, a video surfaced on the popular video sharing website Youtube which showed three female flight attendants dancing along to two popular pop songs (Just Dance by Lady Gaga and California Gurls by Katy Perry) as they performed the safety demonstration. The video subsequently became a viral video.

Cebu Pacific flight attendants in happier days

Cebu Pacific flight attendants in happier days

The airline has had its share of accidents over its history. On the 12th January 2011 Cebu Pacific Flight overshot the runway on landing at Puerto Princesa City, Palawan province with no reported casualties. On the 2nd February 1998 – Cebu Pacific Flight 387 crashes en route to Cagayan de Oro City killing all 104 passengers and crew.

The Philippines, for that matter, is not particularly renowned for its focus on safety. Filipinos’ prowess as a seafaring people, for example, is not as admirable as we are made to believe by the media, the Church, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The country is a consistent host to some of the worst civilian maritime disasters in modern human history. From 1987 through to 2008, for example, a single Filipino shipping company — Sulpicio Lines Inc (SLI) — was a common denominator underlying the preventable deaths of at least 10,000 people at sea. The causes of these disasters have remained fundamentally the same over the 20-year run of Philippine sea disasters that involve not just SLI. In fact, they follow a template:

Ill-maintained passenger ship oversold and overbooked with only half of its passengers recorded on ship manifest cleared for departure by corrupt Philippine Ports Authority and Philippine Coast Guard officials caught in open water as typhoon strikes…

Land transport in the Philippines is a Game of Death. Philippine streets are renowned for their drug-crazed truckers who routinely fancy themselves street racers, killer bus drivers (who, as legend would have it, are instructed to make sure the people they run over are actually killed to spare their bosses any on-going obligation to maimed victims), helmet-less motorcycle riders who weave in and out of Manila’s infernal traffic jams, public utility jeepneys dubbed “Kings of the Road” in a nod to their drivers’ royal immunity from traffic laws, and numerous open manholes which swallow up the odd pedestrian every now and then.

Indeed, the only reason Philippine aviation is relatively “safe” is because aviation attracts far more scrutiny from international regulators than Philippine inter-island shipping and land transport. But are Filipinos really serious about safety? That is the more important and harder question that needs to be faced.

[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Cebu Pacific” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]

19 Replies to “What Filipinos will likely fail to learn from Cebu Pacific Flight 5J-971 to Davao”

  1. Very minor correction

    Depart of Foreign Affairs -> Department of Foreign Affairs

    . . .

    Or is “Depart” intentional 🙂

  2. Cebu pacific staff training limited to videoke and dancing. Customer service a flight of fancy.
    The attendants either froze or panicked – compare that to a bad air scare/incident that happened on singapore airlines a couple of days ago on flight to london due to extreme turbulence (11 people hurt and dramatic photos)
    Cross said, “The cabin crew was amazing in the aftermath, who helped everyone around them
    then in a calm and efficient clean-up.”
    “And the chocolates were a nice touch from the airline. That’s
    why Singapore will remain my favorite carrier in the world.”

    Ironic that international inspectors here at moment assessing safety re european upgrade. I don’t think so.
    Instead of feeling ashamed at the debacle following the accident, including davao airport itself, the usual propaganda and blame game starts with a sanitised inquiry/report to follow.
    it simply is not good enough.

  3. Benign0, you documented better than I ever could the hazards of going from point A to

    point B in the Philippines. Though I did give it a try in making a case that public bus drivers

    be eligible for capital punishment in public. (GRP July 17, 2012)

    We both seem to agree that whether it’s transport or elections or even Karoake , life is

    more cheap in the Philippines. I have no idea why it is supposed to be more fun here.

    Incidents of mortality on land and on sea do not reverberate with the general public. Miss

    Philippines placing 5th in Ms. Universe though, there’s your outcry. Proud to be Pinoy!!!!!!!

    1. Simple thing as going from A to B is always complicated and, often, a hair-pulling experience in the Philippines; whether A is Cubao and B is Alabang or A is an expired license and B is a renewed license. There are just so many people that administrators feel more like herders than managers.

  4. That picture shows that the song and dance culture we have in this country is really detrimental to intelligence.

  5. Travelling in the Philippines is a risky roll of the dice.

    I have used the following guidelines to avoid becoming a statistic:
    NEVER travel during Christmas or Holy Week.

    NEVER get on an over-crowded Ship. check weather reports on http://www.yr.no for 24 hrs. prior to getting on one of those deathtraps that are called ‘Ships’.
    if travelling by RORO, get to the port 3 hrs. before the first departing ship leaves(and get on it), bribe the guards to make my vehicle the last one on, first one off(P250 gets it done, usually).

    Avoid driving during rush hour anywhere in the country and when in a congested city, take a taxi-cab.

    When travelling by Air, be on the first flight of the day and be at the airport 2hrs. ahead of departure to make sure the flight is not over-sold. the safety checks are only done once a day…before the first flight the plane makes.

    only drive a motor-cycle in rural area’s and always drive with-in the range of the headlights.(Never know when the road will just disappear.)

    HAVE a camera in the vehicle as well as a Filipino/a every time I drive to document any accident that may occur.

    NEVER stop if anything ‘hits’ the vehicle because “I did not see it”.(“NO officer, really…I did not see it.”.)

    Keep plenty of glass-bottles handy to throw at the ‘Bachelor’ bus drivers who are constantly running people off the road.(Yep, that is me throwin ’em!).I fuckin hate those guys.

    Never stop to help an accident ‘victim’ as I have seen to many good Samaritans get BLAMED for the accident. Keep it moving, at all costs.

    it may sound bad, but I/we are making it home and making sure no one stops us.

    Always wave and smile at the NPA who are stopping traffic and collecting “TOLLS”, but NEVER, under any circumstances STOP.(Waving arms while screaming “Out of Gas” or “NO BRAKES”, seems to work well so far.)


  6. I have a question though her.

    I understand the lack of immediate response from Ceb Pac and they should actually be re-trained for that and penalized in terms of their response time.

    But why aren’t the people who were seated at the exit doors (who are asked to also be ready in case of emergencies and should they not desire to sit there because they would not be able to perform, swap out) also being asked what happened to them as well.

    In the event of an emergency, you are actually instructed to open those doors as instructed in the manuals.

    I know they are not trained so is that an excuse that they (who were instructed pre-flight of their specific and only duty) failed at it as well?

    Should we then just look into not having any guest sit on those doors since they may end up blocking it and impede access to it when they panic?

    Should we require a fixed steward to passenger ratio that airlines must not adhere to to better address this? (Of course, additional overhead means costs, but who can really put a price on safety/lives).

    I for one actually feel that it is okay to increase the price of tickets a bit if it means the flight is safer by having more better trained and equipped staff on board to respond in case of emergency.

    I use CebPac yes, but I really don’t prefer it. I’d pick AirAsia over it anyday even if I have to go to Clark to ride the plane (which I’ve done) if we’re talking about budget airlines.

    1. Guess that shows you “normal” Filipino reactions to sudden disaster: they just sit down and cry, and wait for the worst to happen, rather than act and do something about it. The factor for me is, Filipinos’ lazy culture, wanting to engage in the “sarap” activities and avoiding preparation for the worst. Same thing you’ll hear from Benign0 in his articles about storm disasters.

        1. I am reliably informed by a former flight attendant friend of mine (who worked for a real airline that is not in this country) that SOP is to IMMEDIATELY evacuate the passengers by all available exits in as swift and orderly manner as possible. If I’d been on that plane, I’d have gotten off at once, and to hell with what the crew told me to do.

      1. Indeed, though Japan for example suffered gravely in that last earthquake and tsunami, their level of preparedness was top-notch. So even in the face of disaster, there were no regrets and wallowing in what-could-have-been-done-better scenarios.

        I wonder too why those inflatable slides weren’t deployed after the crash. I heard that re-installing those slides after they are deployed costs at least $10,000 each.

        1. Hmmm. Did someone say, don’t deploy slides to avoid extra costs even if passengers’ lives are at stake? Hope not. Ah, the problems of doing business in the Philippines.

        2. I always wanted to try the slide, that looks like fun. I was once on a plane that blew a tire on landing, but by the time it stopped rolling it was met by three of those air-stairs trucks, so we didn’t get the chance to do the slide thing.

        3. @Chino: Very possible that the crew have instructions to regard deployment of those slides as a last option. They don’t call ’em BUDGET airlines for nothin’.

          @BenK: They’re probably not as exciting as those big mega-slides they have in those Christmas fairs they used to have in what were then empty lots in Alabang back in the old days…

  7. This reminds me of the time I worked for a “flight academy” where a lot of female students would enroll simply for the glamor of being a potential flight attendant in a local airline. What got to me was the absence of any subject that included first-aid and emergency procedures.

    I bailed after two months. Needless to say, the school was found to be illegally operated and is now under NBI investigation.

  8. I was a flight attendant a long time ago and it saddens me that the stiff competition in the airline industry has caused budget airlines to put safety considerations aside.

    Yes, there are able-bodies passengers requested to assist during emergencies but doesnt the command to evacuate the aircraft emanate from the captain after ascertaining outside conditions? And the cabin crew duties at every point during an emergency situation should be clearly outlined in the airline’s training manual.

    I feared would happen. Airline companies should keep in mind that safety is their main business.

  9. Singing and dancing, and how to be a “Yes Man” to your benefactors, are the only things you’ll learn in the Philippines. This entire country, and it’s people, are all “sellouts.”

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