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Cebu Pacific in Iloilo Calls in Extra Security to Handle Irate American

The Cebu Pacific ticket office located at the old MaryMart Building in Iloilo was the scene of  a crime a couple of weeks ago in which I was the victim of a robbery. Needed to change the itinerary on my ticket from Cebu to Manila. Had originally intended to fly to Cebu to visit the local immigration office and apply for my 13 (a) Permanent Visa to live in the Philippines. However, after determining the amount of trips it might take to Cebu and the subsequent cost, my asawa and I decided to return to the Bureau of Immigration Office in Intramuros, Manila, where we went last last year to obtain my probationary (13) Visa. My wife has numerous relatives in the Metro Manila area where we can stay for an extended period of time if necessary.

Purchased my ticket from the Western Union office in San Miguel, Guimaras, and walked in a couple of Saturday's ago with my itinerary and receipt for the tickets which I had purchased for my asawa and myself back in February. The puzzled clerk did not seem to understand what I wanted to do. Just wanted to change the date and destination. Had done it before a couple of times when in Manila without any hassle. The befuddled Western Union worker went to the back room and got on the phone. He returned and said he could not "process my request", and I would have to go the main Cebu Pacific office located at the old MaryMart Building in Iloilo (McDonald's has an outlet there, so I knew exactly where it was.)

Not too happy about having to take the trip to Iloilo to care for the matter, I advised the Western Union associate that I would certainly not be returning to this office to purchase any tickets in the future. He could've cared less. Was just happy to be rid of me and have one less problem to deal with.

Decided to make the solo trip to Iloilo the following Monday and take care of the ticket change. Checked with the armed security guard at the old MaryMart entrance for the location of the Cebu Pacific office. Got there ten minutes before the nine am opening and was going to be first in line. Shouldn't take too long to care for this, I thought to myself. Nine am came and went, and the ticket outlet still was not opening their doors. I checked with the security guard posted inside, an older geezer like myself, in his 50's, and half my size. His watch showed five minutes earlier than mine. Waited some more. Minutes passed by. Finally at 9:10 I was allowed to enter along with a young Filipina behind me. I took my "Number 1" ticket and waited. And waited some more.

Cebu Pacific staffers were walking in and going to the back office as one lone ticket clerk continued to log on to her computer. At 9:20 she finally called my number, 20 minutes past the opening time of nine am. I'm used to Filipino Time, however, even with businesses that you think would operate in a more timely fashion.

I held out my itinerary to the young lady and explained I would like to change my destination to Manila instead of Cebu. She pulled up my ticket information and said, "I cannot do that, sir. This ticket is a promo sale." Here's a photo of the clerk I took with my camera phone as I explained to her that I was going to put this story on the Internet.

I advised her that I have changed my ticket destination and dates before in Manila without any difficulty, just paid an extra fee for the booking change. My flight was not scheduled to leave until May 3.

  • Why can't it be changed? I inquired.
  • She just repeated the "this ticket is a promo sale" mantra.
  • "Where does it say on my ticket that it is a promo sale? I asked.
  • "It doesn't say it on the ticket, sir, the place where you bought the ticket should have told you that" was her reply.
  • "Well, if you don't want to change my destination than just give me a refund." I told her with growing irritation in my voice.
  • " I can't do that, sir. It is a promo ticket." she said as she pointed to a line on the itinerary that read : "Promo fares are non-reroutable and may not be stored in a Travel Fund.."
  • "So you're going to rob me and take 2,350 pesos (the cost of the ticket) from me?" I said indignantly with  my voice raised considerably by now. It looks like this was going to escalate into another case of "The Ugly American."
  • "I'm not robbing you, sir!" the Cebu Pacific clerk answered and getting angry herself.
  • "Then let me talk to your supervisor"
  • "She's not here yet, sir!
  • "When will she get here!
  • "I don't know, sir!?
  • "I will wait!"

Soon two burly armed guards enter the Cebu Pacific office.  Looks like the situation has escalated. Please check in tomorrow for the surprising conclusion to this story. (Yeah, it's another one of my two-part cliffhangers.)

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19 Responses to “Cebu Pacific in Iloilo Calls in Extra Security to Handle Irate American”

  1. Dave Starr says:

    I’m eagerly awaiting part two. But I do have to say, though, that airlines everywhere sell non-refundable tickets at discount prices, and if you decide you want to change the trip, yep, you’re screwed. This is not something unique to Cebu Pacific … who seem to get a lot of flack from my fellow expats. My experience with them hss been nothing but outstanding over the past 5 years … but I never buy tickets except online and over the phone with them.

    I learned long ago these hole-in-the-wall outlet ticket places have never seen nor conceived of what an airline is, let alone customer service.

    Hope this turns out well, but take a tip from a confirmed Cebu Pacific fan and stick to their website.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for your take on it, Dave. I don’t use the website to book online because I don’t have any credit cards and don’t want to use my bank debit card. I know I have the option of booking online and then going somewhere to pay for the ticket in person and then go back online, but I might as well walk five minutes from “The Compound” and take care of it. I have had other beefs with Cebu Pacific which I have documented before. Good to hear that all of your dealings with them have been positive. I’m using Zest Air to return home after my immigration business is cared for in Manila. I personally hope that the new “Open Skies” policy edict issued by President Aquino opens up the Philippines to more competition.

    • Christine says:

      Agree with Dave Starr here, Dave D.W. If it is a promo ticket,they won’t change it. Although, it is odd that they were going to let me change the schedule for my return ticket Cebu to Manila due in September. I paid P1,299 for one way. I tried to change it to an earlier date, but they were going to charge me P699 for the favour. I decided to stick to my original itinerary. At P2350, sounds like they should let you change. But like the girl said, if it was a promo, it’s no go. In my case, I think they were allowing me (for a price) because it’s some months away yet. It’s tough, and I do detest it when they give you the “couldn’t care less” attitude!

      • Dave says:

        Well, as you can tell by the conclusion to the story, I was able to get the flight changed, Christine. My main issue was that if it was a promo flight how come that information wasn’t printed on the ticket? I didn’t mind paying the extra booking fee, my flight to Manila was longer than the originally scheduled flight to Cebu, anyway. It was the “couldn’t care less” attitude that infuriated me the most.

  2. Tony says:

    Airlines!!! Just another thing in a long line of things that make me go GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

  3. Roselyn says:

    Hi Dave: You might not believe this, but it is the same here in the U.S., promotional ticket or not. My last trip back to the U.S. from the Philippines was fraught with difficulties. On our arrival to the JFK (New York) from Japan, our flight was cancelled from New York to Norfolk (this is Delta Airlines). We waited for 12 hours in the airport for the next flight. Again, the flight was cancelled. The ticket office would not refund our tickets. As my cranky and difficult Filipina sister-in-law was due for work the following day, my brother decided to rent a car and drove from New York to Virginia.

    We contacted Delta Airlines to refund our tickets. We never got our refund.

    • Jack says:

      Roselyn,

      Was the cancellation due to weather? You might be able to get a refund if it is mechanical. I would write Delta customer service and tell them your story. Back in the early 90′s, you would have been refunded the lowest 1 way coach fare. Things are alot different now then when I worked for USAir (alias Agony Airlines or UselessAir).

    • Dave says:

      Hi Roselyn! What? You didn’t get a refund? But your flight was cancelled. I just don’t understand that. Dealing with airlines is one of the few things that raises my stress level in the Philippines (that and people trying to butt in line), but I just can’t comprehend why you didn’t get a refund. That’s totally unacceptable.

      • Roselyn says:

        Hi Dave and Jack: The cancellation was not due to the weather. There is a loophole clause that allows a no refund policy for the airlines. They would have had us waiting for two days in JFK. Talk about getting ripped off and getting mistreated. The airline ticket clerks in New York (airport counters) are some of the rudest women that I have ever encountered.

        • Dave says:

          WHAT? That IS a rip-off loophole clause, Roselyn! Never been to New York, but I can only imagine the rude clerks that you encountered. Whew! Remind me never to fly Delta again!

          • Jack says:

            Roselyn and Dave,

            Unless it is an act of God with weather, waiting for 2 days in the terminal is unreasonable. You really need to write letters to Delta and the government agency who handle complaints. One difference between the USA and the Philippines is the handling of irrate passengers. Back in the 80′s and 90′s, the passengers who yelled the loudest got the first class upgrades. As for the rude employees, the airlines get what they pay for. The airline ticket counter and gate agents were nice paying jobs in the late 70′s. When the pay got cut, the decent employees quit. I went back to college in 1990 when Philadelphia ramp agents ripped off the destination tags off at Christmas and sent the bags anywhere they could (not the best way of handling the problem of paycuts). I had several hard working friends who were gone shortly after I quit.

          • Dave says:

            Yep, Jack, waiting for two days is absolutely unreasonable. I think writing letters to Delta and the FAA would be a good option. I’m glad it didn’t happen to me because I probably would have had a stroke.

            Well, Jack, I didn’t know about the pay cut issue back in the States. That can destroy morale, but ripping off luggage destination tags and punishing the passengers doesn’t seem the right way to handle their grievances. But I remember two things when I first joined the military. There’s two things you don’t mess with. My chow. And my pay.

  4. Jack says:

    Dave,

    Cebu Pacific has lots of staff turnover. I think it is from the cranky Americans. A filipina friend here in Maryland used to work for Cebu Pacific in Tacloban. When she visited 1 year later, most of her friends were no longer working for the airline. I think that the workers are under contract and most of the contracts are not renewed. The biggest issue is that an employee learns how to deal with problems from work experience. There will never be good customer service when things go wrong.

    If it helps, Jho (MBA) lost out on a promo fare. There was an emergency that kept her longer in Leyte and we accepted that we lost the money on the ticket.

    PS … I have heard horror stories about Zest Air. Good luck. I think your readers will be getting a Part 3 and 4 of the story.

    • Dave says:

      Hi Jack. Well, I’m not surprised that Cebu Pacific has lots of turnover. I’m sure dealing with irate kanos like me doesn’t help.Some of us (myself included, of course) have the mentality of a pit bull and won’t let go of something. “No” is not a word we like to hear.
      Zest Air? OK, I type “Zest Air Review” into Google. Here’s the FIRST search that pulls up: “1 Dec 2010 … This blog post tells the story of my worst travel experience this year, courtesy of Zest Air.”
      Lord, someone just hand me a gun and let me shoot myself now.

      • Papa Duck says:

        Dave

        Maybe you should just take the high speed ferry instead hahaha
        Take care and be safe no matter how you get there.

        • Jack says:

          Dave,

          If you can’t afford the ferry, hire a potpot to take you.

          • Dave says:

            Jack, those drivers can’t carry this kano in a potpot without having a heart attack. Tried one in Iloilo City, and the poor guy was huffing and puffing like crazy. I’m only 6′ and weigh 200 lbs. but a lot larger than his average Filipino passenger.

        • Dave says:

          Well, Papa Duck, we have considered using the Super Ferry before, and we did use Negroes Navigation on our return trip from Manila last year. However, NN was six hours behind schedule and took over a day to return home. Guess we’ll probably just use Cebu Pacific again. Getting even more negative feedback about Zest Air.

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