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.
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.
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.
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