Monday, April 21, 2008

I Lost Money because of Cebu Pacific

Cebu Pacific has caused me a lot of stress in the past month and if you've been following me on Twitter you'd know a bit of the story. To make a long story short -

I booked 4 members of my family for a trip to Jakarta. Because of the new policies of DSWD and the long time it takes to get documents from NSO I was not able to obtain a travel clearance for my son despite all the efforts I put in it. In short, I had to cancel his ticket.

Unfortunately the time I had to cancel the ticket was the time that Cebu Pacific decided to upgrade (a.k.a. mess up) their system and my calls and emails were left unanswered. I was also advised that it would take more than half a day if I went to their office as it was jampacked like a rock concert. I cannot stand crowds and hey I'm a very busy person, I cannot take half a day out just to cancel a ticket. Besides what are customer hotlines and emails for if you cannot call and seek assistance through these channels?

I only managed to get through the Cebu Pacific hotline on the day my family was set to leave and I was told by the customer service agent that they were only going to refund PhP3,400 of the PhP8,271 ticket since I only called on the day they were set to leave, plus one way was a promo ticket and they don't refund those. The agent also said that she handled a number of calls with the same problem that week and that they did not give any consideration despite the fact that there system was all fouled-up.

Okay, so I tried to be good natured about the incident since I knew that the customer service agent was just following orders. I also do not want to get all riled up over a ticket. I eventually sent a complaint letter to Cebu Pacific and have waited and waited and waited for them to reply. I guess since they already have MY MONEY, they don't really care.

I have now sought the assistance of the Bureau of Trade Regulation and Consumer Protection and have sent them a letter (see below). I am still hoping that I would get at least PhP6,700 back from Cebu Pacific. I am sure that other consumers have been made to suffer the same plight. And all because of their system's inefficiency.

I have been using Cebu Pacific and I'm very disappointed with them. I did not make a fuss when the Cebu Pacific plane I was riding lurched back down to the ground while it was taking off. That incident caused me a lot of stress that time and I lost about 10 pounds within two weeks after getting stuck in Iloilo. I also missed attending a number of important meetings for that day, but I just shut up then because I had a lot on my plate. Now this, this is really preposterous. I'm probably going to face the same thing with Philippine Airlines since they also do not answer back to emails.

Here's my letter to BTRCP -

Dear Atty. Dimagiba,

I found your email address through the DTI website under the ConsumerNet Directory. I tried looking for a grievance procedure on how to file a complaint, but found none online. I thought of writing directly to you instead.

I would like to seek redress regarding Cebu Pacific Air. I booked 4 members of my family (my parents, aunt and son) on a flight to Jakarta a full month before they were scheduled to go as I was aware I had to get clearance from DSWD for my son's travel with his grandparents. As I am an unmarried single parent I was unable to secure the "never married" certificate from NSO (because it takes at least 15 days to get one) in time for my son's travel supposedly on April 7, 2008.

I began to call the Cebu Pacific hotlines on March 31. The ticket said to call at least a day before to cancel flights. Much to my consternation the Cebu Pacific hotlines were either busy or re-directed to their fax. On April 1 a friend of mine asked assistance from me to book a flight, but we both found out that the online system was down and even travel agencies were not accepting booking for Cebu Pacific. We called around and found out that the Cebu Pacific offices were jampacked and one had to wait at least half a day to be served. I still kept on calling Cebu Pacific to cancel my son's ticket. I kept the faith that the Cebu Pacific hotline would ease up and I'd manage to cancel the flight over the phone as I have done twice in the past. My week was also fully booked and I cannot personally go to their offices.

Cebu Pacific apparently implemented a new system that week and that caused all the furor for all its clients (consumers and travel agencies).

I was hesitant to send an email to Cebu Pacific (they have it at the bottom of their e-ticket) since I felt nobody was going to answer it, but I was desperate already by April 4 and sent an email request to cancel my son's booking. I still continued to call them and have several times waited 30 minutes on the phone listening to their customer service menu, to no avail. I also re-sent my email several times but these went unanswered.

It was only on April 7 that the lines cleared up and someone answered. It was then that the customer service agent said that I could only refund one way of the ticket that was booked since I only called on the day they were set to leave and that it was a promo ticket (that little bit was not in the policies included in the e-ticket). I told the agent that I had exercised all efforts to contact Cebu Pacific for one whole week but their system was down, she just read to me some policies they had about ticket cancellations. She also mentioned that she handled a lot of calls already and that they did not make any considerations to it.

I am seeking redress from your office because I feel that I have been robbed of my money. I should've gotten back about PhP6,771 from the PhP8,271 (penalty of PhP1,500 only). I suffered the loss of money because of the inefficiency of Cebu Pacific's system and not because I was amiss in canceling the ticket on time. I am sure that there are a lot of other ticket holders who suffered the same fate as me.

I have written Cebu Pacific several times, but all of my letters have gone unanswered. I hope your office can help me retrieve the money I lost because of their inefficiency.

Aileen Apolo
This was my complaint letter to Cebu Pacific -

From: Aileen Apolo <>
Date: Mon, Apr 7, 2008 at 8:19 PM

To whom it may concern:

I would like to file this complaint regarding the refund for 1 reservation for booking number MH1SD with reference number ITD01919375CEB for flight 5J759 on April 7, Monday and flight 5J760 on April 26 which has now been changed to J33C2P.

The ticket originally cost around PhP8,000 per person and upon request for refund I am going to be refunded only PhP3,400 according to Jona, the agent I spoke to last April 7, 2008 (morning).

I refunded because as of March 28 we could not obtain the proper DSWD clearance for Jose Miguel Apolo who is a minor who's supposed to travel with his grandparents to Jakarta.

I began calling your customer service hotlines on March 31 to no avail. I always got a busy tone all throughout the week. I had your ticket offices checked, but on April 1 we were informed that your system had an upgrade and the offices were swarming with people. Since I have been a frequent user of your service and have successfully managed to change bookings in the past over the phone, I persevered in calling the customer service hotline. I did not want to course my request through email because I thought I would not get any answer.

On April 5 I realized that I was never going to get through your customer service hotline, so I finally sent an email for my request. I also sent a follow-up email. They were never acknowledged. I also still tried calling again and again your customer service hotline throughout the weekend, even during evenings, to no avail.

NOW I HAVE TO SUFFER THE LOSE OF approximately PhP5,500 because of the INADEQUACY OF YOUR SYSTEM. I was also told when I finally managed to get through your lines that the fare from Manila to Jakarta was forfeited because it was a promo fare. THAT IS NOT SHOWN ANYWHERE IN THE E-TICKET BELOW (unless there's a fineprint I missed).

Pray tell me, WHY SHOULD I SUFFER FOR YOUR INEFFICIENCIES? I would like to demand for the refund of the ticket payment for Jose Miguel Apolo less the PhP1,500 penalty as stated in the conditions below. My refund should be approximately PhP6,500 and not just PhP3,400.

According to the agent there are others who have suffered the same fate as me. Kindly reply within 24 hours. Thanks.

Aileen Apolo