Stress has been constant in my life from the start I learn to experience it and recognized it. And I was able to manage some of them very easily and some painfully. Last Monday, I experienced a kind of stress which I am not so familiar with. All the stresses I had before where results of my errors, miscalculations, and other forms of human frailties. I called it undue stress which simply means as a kind of stress brought about not by my own volition but an effect of other people’s errors and wrong judgment.
It was 8:15 in the morning when I arrived at Davao International Airport. As I stepped out of the taxi, I was greeted with throngs of people gathered outside the terminal. I wondered why. I totally forgot of the runway accident occurred last night, Sunday at 7PM. I just proceed anyway with the usual procedure when you travel by air; security check and everything. Once I was done with security x-ray machine, I saw hundreds of people towing the line. I scanned for a shorter line and while doing so I asked some people what was going on. I learnt that all flights were cancelled and was told to look for the airline area and just pick a line and all your questions will be answered by the time it was your turn to face one of the ground crew personnel assigned.
I engaged some people around me hoping that I would get specific answers or details with the hullabaloo inside the airport. After an hour, I got impatient, and turned towards the person at my back and asked her to secure my space as I would go to the front desk to search for answers. So, I marched forward and asked a ground crew of Cebu Pacific about status of flights and the solutions to all the commotions involved. The guy did look at me and told me just fall in line and I would be having my answers soon. I was expecting that I would hear messages and instructions coming from a public address system informing passengers about procedures on how to go about cancellation of bookings and rebookings. There was none.
From these experiences of mine, it was very obvious that Cebu Pacific Personnel were not skilled and were not aware of crisis management strategies. I was convinced that they acted as if there was no crisis at all. It was a total mess; confused and irritated passengers, tempers were high, senior citizens and disabled passengers were helpless, children cried, and no one from Cebu Pacific was sensitive enough to provide systematic and orderly steps on facilitating different kinds of issues and concerns with regard to flight and bookings.
I did have my turn with one of the ground crew after standing in line after three hours. I was told that I had to travel to General Santos City for me to arrive Manila and attend my monthly business meeting with my superiors. So, I was given 7PM flight Gensan to Manila. I was told to go to the ticketing office and a shuttle bus will be provided for my trip to GenSan. I asked the guy “Is that all?” He said yes and I retorted “no meals?” He said that there would be just asked anyone of the crew assigned with facilitating the shuttle ride to Gensan.
I went outside of the terminal and found the Cebu Pacific Ticketing Office and found one long line of people. I asked a fellow passenger if that was the line for General Santos shuttle ride. It was already 12:15 when I started waiting for the shuttle bus to arrive and board on it. The only visible sign that the line was in control was the presence of an airport security staff standing beside the line. She was a woman; specifically a lesbian. At 1:00 PM one of the buses finally arrived, that woman pulled out four girls and led them in front of the line. I turned around and told the girl behind me to secure my space as I will confront that woman. So, I went forward and waited for an opportunity to confront. Finally, a Cebu Pacific attendant started directing passenger to board the bus and that woman directed the four girls to do the same without that Cebu Pacific crew being aware. So, I shouted “Why are those four girls boarding ahead of us when those ladies were in line behind me?” The airline crew called the girls but to no avail did not get out of the bus. She was helpless even with the help of other service crew even if four policemen were around and were just observing the incident. I got frustrated with the inaction so I went back to my line and waited very disappointed. My voice and complained was unheard. My assigned bus drove off to Gensan at 2 PM.
At this stage, it is very and really very evident that Cebu Pacific airline staff are totally incapable of handling crisis situation. I shudder the thought of what possibilities should another untoward incident will happen in the future. I was angry with that airport woman staff for acting beyond her duties and responsibilities.
The bus arrived at General Santos City airport a little over at 5PM. Again, there was a long line, and it was 6:15 PM when I managed to squeeze in and have my baggage went through security check and find a line in front of Cebu Pacific check in counter. While waiting for my turn, a lot of commotions occured;
* Irate kids crying out so loud
* confuse passengers who engaged fellow passengers in search of answers to their questions such as “am I in the right line?”
* senior citizens who were helpless but were not attended and just simply followed the line too.
*nervous passengers who were afraid that they could not check in and board their flight because of the slow process of checking in and unorganized system of checking in. Who wouldn’t be nervous when you were carrying a 7PM flight ticket and the clock showed it was already 6:30 and twenty people were ahead of your line.
Despite these situations, there was no communication, there was no attempt at organization of chaos. The Cebu Pacific crew treated the whole shebang as if there was no crisis. It was normal to them, they even manage to shout at some distraught passengers. At 8:30PM, I had myself and my baggage checked in and the ground crew informed details of my boarding pass. He told me to go to Gate Number and boarding is at 6:40PM. I was shocked of course and I shouted at him “Are you nuts, it is already 8:30PM and my boarding you are telling me to board at 6:40PM?” Which the gay airline ground personnel replied “Go on sir and move ahead as your flight is already boarding.” So, I picked up my backpack and hurriedly ran to Gate 2 not minding that I may have hurt some people while running swiftly towards the exit gate. I was escorted outside of the exit gate and a female ground pointed to me which airplane to board. I ran towards the plane and nearly tripped over while scaling the stairs leading to the airplane door. And when I was inside the plane, I was furious; it was half full. I asked a stewardess why; she replied that they were still waiting for some passengers fill in empty seats. I wanted to go back to the check in counter and slapped the guy for instructing me to hurry up because my plane was already boarding.
Meanwhile, some passengers were nervous. Some were really afraid of not being accommodated as probably heard the word “boarding.”; and you know what it means. And inside the plane, the passengers were restless as the intended 7PM flight did not materialize.
I took my assigned seat and asked a crew if they would offer free dinner. After few minutes, the crew served me a “Jollibee Meal” of one piece chicken and one cup rice. I did not realize that they did not serve me water. When I did, I push the service button on top and a crew immediately came over and asked for my concern. “Sir, I am sorry, but water is still coming up, please wait.” So, I did wait and after ten minutes there was no water. I pushed the service button again and asked for water. “Sir, can you please wait for it, it is being delivered already.” Which I replied ” I understand that you are selling of bottled water why don’t you give one to me instead and replaced it with the coming up?” The stewardess replied “I will ask the ground Sir if it is possible.” In few seconds after I had that conversation, I saw two guys carrying two boxes bearing “Nature’s Spring” logo. I was relieved at the sight and hoped that the stewardess I had conversed with would pick up a bottle of water me. She did not, instead, she came towards me and told me that there was water already and it would be served immediately. Yes, it was, but I did not get one, as it was already claimed by passengers who were four rows ahead of me.
Again, these scenes were evidences how disorganized and inept Cebu Pacific in handling crisis situation. It was already 10 PM when the plane took off and we landed at NAIA3 at 12PM. When I boarded a yellow taxi going to our staff house, I was feeling as if I was hit with a big stone or struck by thunder. It was a very stressful Monday and I hoped that it won’t happen again. But, I still want that Cebu Pacific will have its own karma because of the undue stress they cause me.