CAB orders CEB to submit plan to avert cancellations

By Emmie V. Abadilla

After Cebu Pacific (CEB) cancelled 172 one-way domestic flights from April 28-May 10, 2019, about 14 flights out of its 400 daily domestic flights per day, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) ordered the airline yesterday to submit a concrete plan to prevent more cancellations within 30 days but decided not to impose penalties.

The CAB made the order after conducting two formal hearings on the circumstances behind CEB’s flight cancellations and submitting its report to the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

The Board labelled the cancellations as a “recuperative measure” for the airline and that CEB “properly handled” the concerns of passengers affected by its mass cancellations abiding with the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.

But while CAB did not consider imposing penalties “at present” and found that the airline is compliant with the regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) with regards to its crew, the board found CEB has a “crewing problem.”

The CAB was convinced that the additional time spent by on-duty crew on the tarmac consumed the working hours and reserves supposed to be used at a much later schedule.

In the investigation held on May 2 and May 6, 2019, CEB cited that ongoing efforts to improve on-time performance (OTP) have led to its decision to cancel hundreds of flights.

For the DOTr’s part, Secretary Tugade directed the daily publication of airline OTP in major airports nationwide.

During the hearings, CEB cited the reasons for the downturn in its on-time performance.

The time it took from the aircraft’s closing of doors to actual lift-off can reach as long as 66 minutes: 19.6 minutes of which is spent from the closing of doors to the “blocks off” or the time the aircraft vacates the parking position; while 46.6 minutes from the blocks off to the lift-off.

Meanwhile, the shortest time between closing of doors and actual lift-off is at 49 minutes.

The hour-long stay on the tarmac pushed Cebu Pacific’s OTP to an average of 51.16%, with lows of around 30% in March.

This made CEB decide to cancel flights to “create space” in its flight and crew inventory, “make way for operational recovery,” and “minimize rolling delays.”
The airline made clear that the factors adversely affecting its OTP are largely within its internal operational sphere.

In terms of assets, CAB found Cebu Pacific adequately equipped, having “younger fleet” and is set to receive three more new aircraft in the future.

Overall, the CAB gave CEB a stern warning to exercise diligence necessary in maintaining stability and reliability of air transport service to the riding public.