Don’t fly with Filipino Airlines – Cebu Pacific and SEAIR are a total disgrace

This is pretty much a rant / warning to other people that may one day intend to visit the Philippines or are considering flying with Cebu Pacific or SEAIR (South East Asian Airlines). I’m hoping eventually this might pop up on internet search engines and inform prospective travellers of our horror story, which will in turn help prevent them from making the same mistake we have.

We were booked to fly from Manila to El Nido on Jan 23rd with SEAIR. Yesterday SEAIR e-mailed to inform us that our flight had been cancelled due to ‘airport situation’. I phoned them up and asked them what was meant by an ‘airport situation’. They were unable to answer, except for ‘airport not ready’. Total rubbish as I know that the airport has been open for years. I asked why the airport wasn’t ready, they couldn’t answer. Basically from doing some research on the internet they had cancelled the flight because they had not sold all the tickets. Unbelievable. I have never heard of a company doing this and being allowed to do so. It’s not like having a hair cut cancelled. They offered us a flight to our destination on February 6th, which is the day we are supposed to be arriving home as our holiday is all booked up. They tell us 2 weeks before that the flight has been cancelled for a totally unacceptable reason and could offer no reasonable explanation. They then informed us that we will be refunded in 15-30 BANKING DAYS despite us having paid by debit card directly to the airline. I was very angry, but it wasn’t the end of the world as we could fly into another city (Puerta Princesa via Cebu Pacific) but we’d have to endure an 8-9 hour bus journey to our destination. A huge inconvenience but we really wanted to visit Palawan so we booked to do this as an alternative last night.

Hate doesn't do my feelings justice!

THEN TODAY, Cebu Pacific cancelled our return flights to Seoul on February 5th-6th. The explanation – Due to Airport Situation. AGAIN. I couldn’t believe it. They offered us a return flight the next day, this seemed perfectly fine to them. This is too late for us though as we have return to work on the Monday and won’t make it back on time.

I probed further as to why they have cancelled and the weasel on the other line revealed ‘Now we have different appointment’. How the hell can an airline advertise flights for months and then cancel them 2 weeks before due to having a ‘different appointment’. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Defies belief. Again, they obviously haven’t sold out all the tickets so cancelled it instead. I’m pretty sure in Europe this would be illegal?

They then told us it will take 45-60 banking days for us to get our refund. Once again despite having paid direct to the airline by DEBIT card, not even credit card. The guy told me to ‘check my bank account every few months’.  I couldn’t have made it up. In the process of extracting this information from the incompetent imbeciles at the company it took me 5 separate phone calls, cost me over $20 and they hung up after putting me on hold on 4 separate occasions after I’d asked to speak to a supervisor or someone with any authority. They refused to tell me who I could complain to, all they could say was that my grievances will be passed onto their managers. AS IF.

I truly hope they go bust...

Regarding the flight I had booked with them last night (from Manila to Puerta Princesa), I asked if they could guarantee it will go ahead – all they would say was ‘We will inform you of any cancellations via e-mail if your flight is cancelled’. They were offering no guarantees. I remained very dignified and very diligently told them that I will be cancelling our booking. They told me it will take 45-60 Banking days for me to get a refund, and I will have to pay a cancellation fee. I told them where to go at this point and told them in no uncertain terms how much of a disgrace they were, and that this was an example of one of the many reasons as to why they remain a third world country. I couldn’t believe they had the cheek to say I would have to pay a cancellation fee after all this. Despite being unable to tell me if the flight would even go ahead.

I have phoned up Lloyds TSB and they are attempting to block the transaction I made last night from going through, despite me paying by debit card. After I explained the situation to them they were more than understanding and told me to phone back in a few hours to let me know if they had been successful or not.

We cannot fly to Palawan with anyone else now as all the flights are booked up, and we don’t even have a return flight home from SE Asia now. We are also about 600 pounds ($900 or so) out-of-pocket with no idea as to when / if we will ever receive this money. In addition to this wherever we go now instead will be more expensive and our return flight to Seoul will cost 2-3 times as much as it would have done had an actual flight been booked since October like it was. I have tried to have a look as to who I should complain to about this, but it seems there is no regulatory body that governs these appalling Philippine airlines.

One of the worst things is, we even researched both airlines before making our booking – apart from a few groans here and there about budget airlines the reviews weren’t too bad. It’s not even like we were even totally naive and stupid when making our bookings. It seems that our luck has been totally out.

Wish you were here - NOT ANYMORE!

We are due to fly to Hong Kong on Thursday morning, spending a couple of nights there before heading to Malaysian Borneo and we were then planning on spending 2 weeks in the Philippines. We certainly won’t be visiting the Philippines anymore, and I don’t think we will ever visit after this. We have been so excited for the last few months about going to Palawan. It’s a crying shame as it’s supposed to be such a beautiful place and was supposedly the inspiration for the novel ‘The Beach’.

We have no idea where we will go instead now, there are plenty of options but whatever we do will be a lot more expensive. It’s hugely disappointing and indescribably infuriating but it seems we are irrelevant and there is nothing we can do. We will have a great time wherever we end up going, probably either more of Malaysia or Indonesia. I’ll let you know. Either way, it’s not the news you want to hear less than a week before we are due to depart.

I’m sure we are not the only people to have suffered this, due to Cebu Pacific and SEAIR I’d be pretty certain that foreign tourists who would spend a lot of money in their country are now refusing to visit due to their incompetence and disgraceful service. So in the meantime the poverty-stricken locals miss out on valuable income due to the incomprehensible actions of a few ‘well-off’ airline executives. The whole situation just stinks.

On a more positive note – it could have been worse – they could have told us the day before. At least we have a few days to make alternative plans. It’s still far from ideal holiday preparation!

We’re just bitterly disappointed and I am absolutely livid. What can we do? Not a lot. Tomorrow is a new day, we’ll have a great holiday regardless I’m sure so from now on I’m going to try and be positive.

Finally, as if you hadn’t already got the message…

I STRONGLY ADVISE ANYONE WHO READS THIS TO NEVER, EVER BOOK A FLIGHT WITH CEBU PACIFIC OR SEAIR – THEY ARE A DISGRACE TO THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY

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10 thoughts on “Don’t fly with Filipino Airlines – Cebu Pacific and SEAIR are a total disgrace”

  1. Thank you for the information, and I’m sorry to hear about your awful experience :-/. Now, I will never, ever fly with them. I’ve been wanting to go to the Phillipines too. I guess I’ll go with Asiana or Korea Air, something more reputable than those losers!! Hope you do get your money back. I would say that the best thing to do is to PUBLICIZE this!! In fact, I would send this blog directly to all of the Phillippines’-and also Korean-news people. My Mom had a bad airline ticket refund experience in the States, and her friend told a news station, and guess who ended up on the evening news? Yup. And upon being on the news, guess who after 6 months promptly got a refund that she was told she wouldn’t get? Yup.

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  2. airline rules in Philippines is in favor of the airlines and NOT the customers. if you read their FAQ, it’s all about they have the right to cancel, change, reroute, etc. SEAIR is worse than Cebu pacific. I’d like to go to Batanes but since SEAIR currently has the monopoly of flights, I’ll just have to pass. I think I could live without seeing Batanes if it means being free from SEAIR’s clutches.

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  3. At least Seair informed you! We attempted to check in for our Manila – El nido flight earlier today, only to find that it had been cancelled! No explanation was given, but I assume it was because all the tickets were not sold. They are putting us up overnight in a (crappy) hotel and have got us a flight with another airline tomorrow, but we have still lost a day of our holiday. And I would not call Seair a “budget” airline. We paid nearly P30000 for two return tickets. I’ve never flown with Seair before and never will again.
    However, I have always found Cebu Pacific to be great value. I’ve flown with them scores of times over the last 10 years and never had a significant problem.
    But don’t let these issues put you off visiting the Philippines. It’s a great country to travel around.

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    1. Hey there.

      Thanks for the message. Yes sorry to hear about your awful experience with SEair! I’ve heard a lot of people say good things about Cebu Pacific, but we will never fly with them after what they did. We would however one day still like to visit the Philippines if we have the opportunity, we’ll just make sure we fly with a respectable airline in future! Hope you got your flights sorted out in the end.

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  4. We are in 2012 and things have not really improved with the airlaine company Island Transvoyager Inc (ITI) in our flight back from El Nido to to Manila on Saturday 4th of August 2012, which I want to report.

    At the moment of embarking the flight for Manila, ITI forced us to pay 4000 PHP for excess of baggage, by strictly making the exact difference between the total weight (they measured) to embark in the plane and the weight of our nearly naked bodies and reaching the incredible amount of 45 Kg of excess baggage in addition of the 10 Kg allowed per person. From our side, we were expecting to pay between 2000 and 2500 PHP for an estimated excess of baggage between 3 and 5 Kg per person (we are a family of 5).

    This unfortunate incident was triggered by an unbelievable eagerness of ITI who wants to profit to spill a maximum amount of money at the very last minute before departure from tourists that have planned international flight from manila. ITI wants to profit from the vulnerability of these tourists knowing that they have NO CHOICE other than paying whatever amount of ADDITIONAL MONEY ITI asks UNILATERALLY at the moment of departure. No negotiation whatsoever was possible.

    The facts that happened on Saturday are the following:
    1) We already paid 6,500 x 5 = 32,500 PHP for the purchase of 5 tickets ElNido = Manila, which allowed 10 KG of baggage
    2) We have been traveling across the Philippines with several internal flights several of them with a baggage allowance of 15 Kg per person (3 flights with Cebu Pacific Air, for example). We NEVER had any excess of baggage to pay, proving that all our baggage has always been below 15 Kg per person.
    3) Before departing from El Nido we left to the people of the village several of our belongings as presents: we left dresses, snorkeling equipment (including large fins, snorkel), at least 6 books, umbrellas, school material, that should have reduced our weight by at least 5 – 8 Kg. The weight of our checked in baggage was therefore below an average of 13 – 14 Kg. For this amount we had foreseen a worst case scenario to pay between 2000 and 2500 PHP of baggage excess at the airport, and following your recommendation we arrived at the airport nearly 2 and half hour in advance.
    4) At the moment of the check-in at the airport, in order to maximize their profit the ITI personnel has been applying STRICTLY the 10 KG rule by weighting EVERYTHING we had that was carefully put in the hand luggage. My wrist watch, my wallet, the keys in my pocket, my sweat shirt for the flight, my mobile phone, my passport, my airline ticket, my reading glasses, were all weighted to increase the amount of baggage excess. The only thing that was not weighted was the T-shirt I was wearing, my short trousers and the slippers we were wearing. If we would have been fully dressed wearing our watches, glasses, wallet and shoes we would have hat at least 10 Kg less of weight.
    5) The ITI personnel clearly stated that either we paid, or we didn’t fly. Knowing that we did not have the choice of not flying and wanted to exploit the fact that we were particularly vulnerable at that moment having an international flight to Europe to catch in the following hours.
    6) To measure weight, ITI use an old spring balance (apparently they cannot afford a modern and precise electronic balance – but this is probably deliberate to maximize profits). It is well known that spring-based balances are inaccurate. In addition, the spring becomes weaker with time and that old spring balances have a tendency of indicating more and more weight as year pass. ITI at check-in time did not have any alternate balance to correctly verify the weight and applied strictly no tolerance on what the balance was indicating, despite it is well known that spring balances have a precision of 20 %. As their cumulate measure was 95 Kgs, they should have at least tolerated an error of 9.5 Kg (10%) or 19 Kg (20%). They did not, and again no negotiation was possible.
    7) There was no space problem in the cargo part of the plane that was more than half empty at the moment of departure (only 6 bags checked in).
    8) There was no weight problem in the plane in general, as there were at least 4 unoccupied seats during the flight. All the discussion was only because ITI wanted to maximize their profits with tourists.
    9) They also did not accept the fact that my 10 years old boy weighs only 25 Kg and my 14 years old daughter weights 35 Kg. the weight difference between my son and an adult is more than enough to compensate the total excess of weight. On the other hand, the flight cost for my son is the same as the one of an adult.
    10) The personnel of ITI also did not want to accept the argument that we were a family travelling with 3 children and that maybe some tolerance could be applied for that.
    11) But the worst of the worst is that as we did not plan to pay the extra 4000 PHP, we were forced to pay, on the spot un USD. ITI did not accept the credit card as a payment method “because they do not have a machine in El Nido”. And this was an additional opportunity for ITI to make a little additional profit from the poor family of tourist visiting the Philippines by practicing the worst exchange rate I have ever had in the Philippines. An exchange rate that was less interesting that the one we had from money changers (always above 41), in El-Nido (40.65) and the one we had in the Hotel (40.5) as they UNILATERALLY decide what are worth my dollars by exploiting the fact that I do not have the possibility to find an alternate changing source and by not accepting credit cards (to my knowledge ITI is the only airline in the world not accepting credit card at the airport – once more, like the balance, this seems deliberate to maximize further profits).
    12) Finally, the incredible discussion was not over after I paid 12 USD and 6500 + 6500 + 6500 + 6500 + 6500 + 3500 = 36000 PHP because 0.19 cents of USD dollar were missing to reach the 4000 PHP requested to pay the excess of baggage (to reach a total of 36500 PHP). According to a lady who apparently was the manager of ITI at the El-Nido airport, we would not have taken the plane if we would not pay the 20 pesos to which the 0.19 cents of US dollars corresponded. After having paid 36000 PHP + 12 USD x 41 = 36492 Pesos, we would not have taken the plane unless we pay an additional 20 Pesos ! So at the end we paid the extra 20 pesos with 4 coins of 5 pesos for a total of 36512 Pesos.

    We were deeply shocked by the commercial behavior of ITI airlines and we are very sad to discover that despite many organization makes enormous effort to facilitate the tourism in the Philippines and El Nido, others want to exploit it beyond what is acceptable by putting tourist in weak conditions and then exploiting this weak situation in their favor to maximize their profits. I have been flying with many small or large companies and I have never witness such behaviors against its own customers by airline companies.

    Albert, a tourist from France

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  5. Cebu Pacific Airlines = Scammers How do they get away with it? Sponsored corruption courtesy of Philippines Senators..

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  6. That experience was too horrible. As a Filipino native i feel so sorry for the disappointed tourists who loves to visit our country, we have a lot of beautiful places here, enough to bring relaxation. But behind of it, there’s a lot of dirty businessmen and politicians here. Yes, they are total disgrace of our country, even the other Filipino citizens are affected by their dirty plans. I dont know what to say to all of you, i feel so sorry. God Bless to all of you.

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  7. Cebu Pacific does not care. Period. My 2 friends and I had a flight MNL-RXS and RXS-MNL in November. Due to the Haiyan, Roxas City is not an ideal place to vacation after the damages. I called to request for a re-booking until the city is ready to host visitors again – they said NO. I told them I am still flying with them, not asking for a refund – they said NO. From then on I decided never to fly with them again – for the rest of my life! I am local and have been flying with them in the recent years. Unfortunately I booked 3 more trips with them in 2014 but after that, they will never earn a single centavo from me. Don’t fly Cebu Pacific, not Every Juan does.

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