- A Cebu Pacific Dubai-Manila flight made an emergency landing in India
- Passengers were asked to stay inside the plane for about 8 hours with no concrete information about the problem
- The aircon was turned off for about 6 hours
- The passengers were booked at a hotel in India and were stranded there for 3 days
OFW Rhoy Landicho’s much-anticipated vacation back in Manila from Oman turned out to be a nightmare when Cebu Pacific flight 5J015 bound for Manila from Dubai had over 300 passengers contained inside the plane for about 8 hours and stranded in India for 3 days.
Landicho told Rappler that his flight from Dubai was supposed to leave on June 28 at 11:10pm but the plane departed at 2am on June 29 due to what the pilot described as a “technical issue.”
In an interview with Rappler, May-Ann Charisse Agosto said that they experienced heavy turbulence after take off alongside hearing strange noises from the plane. It was during this time that the pilot announced that they have to make an emergency landing at the Mumbai’s International Airport.
When they landed in Mumbai, things took a turn for worse. Agosto and Landicho recalled that they were told not to exit the aircraft while it was being checked.
Initially, Agosto said the passengers were okay with waiting inside the plane. But after about two hours, the air conditioning inside the plane was turned off. This became a problem because of the heat and lack of ventilation.
At one point, Agosto, who has asthma, struggled with breathing. Fortunately, a doctor was on board the plane and was able to help her.
Another appalling detail that Agosto remembered was that flight attendants tried to sell them food during the whole 8-hour ordeal.
“Ang masakit dito, nasa crisis kami, at may food naman sila. Instead na ibigay nila, binebentahan pa kami. ‘Yung katabi ko na nagugutom, nanghingi na lang ng mainit na tubig para sa cup noodles niya. Sinabihan lang siya ng attendant na, ‘Bili po muna kayo kahit ano.,” Landicho said.
[What hurt though is that we were in a crisis, and they had food. Instead of giving us food, they were selling the food to us. The person sitting right next to me was hungry and asked for hot water for her noodles. The flight attendant told her, “Buy anything first.”]
Even drinking water wasn’t offered for free. According to Landicho, one passenger asked for water from one of the flight attendants and said it would cost P500 for five bottles of water.
When they were allowed to get out of the plane, no assistance was provided for them. They were just told what to do but no one accompanied them to the hotel assigned to them or updated them on the status of their flight.
“From the plane hanggang sa hotel, walang nag-aassist sa amin na crew. Hindi namin alam sino kakausapin at saan pupunta. Kami-kami na mismo nag-organize ng sarili namin,” JC Vargas, another passenger on the flight, said.
[From the plane until we reached the hotel, no one from the crew assisted us. We didn’t know who to talk to or where to go. We had to organize the group by ourselves.]
In the airline’s initial statement, they said travel help desks were set up at the passengers’ hotels so that they could “provide immediate assistance.”
Agosto denied this vehemently.
“Anong travel help desks? Nagpakita nga lang ang representative ng partner travel agency nila nung pauwi na kami,” Agosto said.
[What travel help desks? The representative from their partner travel agency only showed up when we were about to come home.]
Agosto said they were the ones who found the airline staff in the same hotel they were staying in. They were not of much help, though, as it turned out that the crew themselves were just as lost as to what was going on. Agosto said one of the crew members said, “Pare-pareho lang tayong stranded. Buti nga kayo may dalang mga damit.” [We’re all stranded here. At least you all have spare clothes.]
Landicho said the whole group was a mess – some passengers’ items went missing, some were unable to have dinner because of some miscommunication with the hotel, and they all were clueless about what was going to happen.
If no one took the initiative to organize room assignments, they would have been in complete disarray.
Frustrated and exhausted by the lack of customer service and leadership, the passengers took to social media their concerns. They used the hashtag #CebuPac5J015 and demanded answers and immediate action from the airline.
One post from a passenger named Karen Faith Garces went viral on Facebook. As of posting it now has been shared over 13,000 times.
They were stranded in India for about 3 days. When the group finally arrived in Manila, they were met by some representatives from Cebu Pacific who gave them an apology letter. Along with the letter was a voucher for a round trip flight anywhere via Cebu Pacific that was redeemable within 6 months.
The passengers refused to take the voucher because it required signing a waiver that cleared the airline from its accountabilities.
The group went to the Cebu Pacific’s office at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) asking for an explanation but a supervisor asked them to just file a formal report.
The group is thinking of filing a lawsuit against the airline.
“The problem really is the terrible crisis management. We also want to sit down with Cebu Pacific management and talk about this,” Landicho said.