"What happened in Panglao"
Last November 8 to 10, a group of media practitioners went to Panglao island in Bohol for a weekend respite and to write about the various developments in that province especially about its booming tourism industry.
According to the group, they were received well by the management and officials of the Bohol sites that they visited —Bluewater Panglao accommodations capped by a tree-planting activity within the hotel compound, a dolphin-watching trip, sightseeing at Isola de Francesco island, looking for fireflies in the dark along the Abatan River in Cortes, a trip to the Bohol Museum in Loay and the exciting river cruise with dinner on the boat in Loboc, with Mayor Leon Calipusan.
None of the media practitioners complained about the trip which they described as so blissful and relaxing, arranged by Pete Dacuycuy, a veteran PR man specializing in tourism… Until they reached the check-in counter of Air Asia in Panglao International Airport some 45 minutes before closing time, which was just in time for Flight Z2 355, scheduled to depart at 13:25 that Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019.
They had a group ticket for Flight Z2 355 from Tagbilaran to Manila for —Dacuycoy, Pedro “Boo” Chanco, Theresa Chanco, Diego Cagahastian, Corazon Cagahastian, (all senior citizens) and Benjamin Layug, Via Marie Claire Baroma, Grace Louise Santiano, Kristelle Bechayda, and Leica Dacuycuy.
However, to their surprise, the Air Asia counter in-charge in Panglao Airport told them that due to a glitch in their computer system, only four passengers could be accommodated—Via Marie Claire, Grace Louise, Kristellea and Leica. The seniors and Layug had to wait for the next flight some two hours later.
Aggravating the matter was that that Pete Dacuycuy, being the host during the trip, was made to pay at least P10,000 for a rebooking fee for the six passengers not accommodated—or shall we say off-loaded—by Air Asia. Wasn’t it the fault of AirAsia? So, why were they charged with rebooking fee to be able to make it on the next flight to Manila?
And while already seated for almost one hour inside the plane on the succeeding flight, Cagahastian, who was on Seat No. 4, was even challenged by a flight attendant to produce
his boarding pass which he did, presumably because there is another passenger with the same seat number.
“Double seating,” Cagahastian claims overhearing the stewardess tell her colleague. Does this mean that in these two flights of Air Asia from Panglao to Manila, the management or ground staff are selling seats for favored passengers, thus off-loading other unsuspecting customers?
This is not the first time I heard of this scheme. Actually, I was also a victim once.
In 2009 or 2010 (I can’t recall the exact date), I was bumped off my flight from Hong Kong to Manila after the Philippine Airlines counter in Hong Kong gave my seat to a passenger whose flight back to Manila was canceled earlier that day. However, unlike AirAsia, PAL did not charge me any rebooking fee.
And AirAsia is reportedly fast becoming notorious for malpractices ever since its operation was said to have been taken over by the wife of 1PACMAN Rep. Mikee Romero.
According to sources, AirAsia is now being run by his wife and her friends, who supposedly had no idea operating an airline. Romero’s wife and her friends, I have been told, are more concerned with the upcoming initial public offering of AirAsia, rather than its operation.
But how can they have a successful IPO if the company’s operation is a mess?
According to one of the media practitioners who were offloaded in fight Z2 355, they tried to reach the office of AirAsia to air their complaint. According to them, they were even willing to just forget everything if AirAsia would reimburse the rebooking fee Dacuycuy had paid as it was the airline’s fault in the first place.
Unfortunately, their complaint fell on deaf ears, according to the media practitioners. They were simply ignored.
Either the Air Passengers Bill of Rights is already obsolete or it is just too weak. Airlines maybe are no longer keen on respecting and upholding the rights of their source of income – their passengers.
It’s time for Congress to revisit and amend our only protection for airline abuses and malpractices.