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Jan 7, 2010

Posted by in Advocacies, Autism, Featured | 10 Comments

Apparently, not every Juan can fly with Cebu Pacific after all

Apparently, not every Juan can fly after all.

Contrary to Cebu Pacific‘s tag line that it’s time everyone flies (or every Juan as they so creatively coined), there are exemptions to who they are willing to fly. This is the message they gave to the public when they so insensitively tried to coerce a mother and her son to disembark from the plane they were taking because the son had special needs. The incident took place last December 23, 2009. According to news reports, Mrs. Mylene Alcantara was told by the flight crew that they cannot go on with their flight after finding out that her son was a special child. More specifically, she was informed that the company policy was that no two special needs passengers can be on the same flight. Apparently, there was another child with Down’s Syndrome already aboard the aircraft. They reportedly were insisting that her son was mentally ill, thus they could not travel. I applaud this mother’s strength and courage as she not only refused to be coerced and intimidated by these crew members but also for continuing the fight against the airline. Mrs. Alcantara is now filing a multi-million lawsuit against the carrier.

This is not the first time Cebu Pacific has displayed obvious descirmination towards PWD’s or Persons with Disabilities. In a previous incident (which if not for a blogger’s Plurk I would not have known about), Cebu Pacific refused to board a group of  deaf passengers because of a policy against having two unescorted passengers that require special handling. They explained further that “special handling” pertained to passengers who were pregnant, had disabilities,  medical cases, minors travelling alone and individuals whose physical, medical or mental conditions need special or individual attention (read the entire response via Filipino Deaf from the Eyes of a Hearing Person here and here).

Granted that having unassisted and unaccompanied individuals who need special attention may tax the resources of the cabin crew in case of emergency and increase the carrier’s liability, this seems to not be the case in the situations of both the group of hearing impaired tourists and Mrs. Alcantara’s son. For one, the child was accompanied by his mother who clearly is able to care for her son and attend to his needs. Secondly, as heard over the radio this morning, the lawyer of the family pointed out that special children are not considered mentally ill.

What ignorance on the part of a company! Just because someone has special needs does not make them less of an individual nor does it mean they do not deserve opportunities granted to everyone else. So long as they have their support system on hand, there should be no problems or issues at all. Conrtary to the belief that children with autism or mental retardation cannot behave and act inappropriately, they can be just like other kids in many, many ways. In fact, a lot of times it is the so-called “normal” population that acts inappropriately in-flight. The Cebu Pacific crew‘s behavior takes us back to a time when children with autism, Down’s Syndrome and other physical, mental or other handicaps were institutionalized and hidden from the rest of the world. I, for one, am not willing to go back to that kind of a mind-set. I enjoin a fellow autism advocate and another brave mom of a child with autism as she calls for the airline industry to accommodate individuals with special needs. If I may add, this accommodations should be done with no questions asked!

In the last year alone, I have read so many gripes and rants about the airline, from faulty online bookings to poor customer service, and now this. It is time that the airline started making changes about their policies and procedures. Further, their training of their staff should be revamped. I remember on my Davao trip last year, I had taken another carrier but my friends had taken Cebu Pacific and they had a major rant about one of the crew. I don’t remember what it was exactly anymore, but the point is Cebu Pacific should work on better customer service. While the airline has made apologies to the family, it is not enough. The damage is done.

Cebu Pacific does offer low fares. But their claim on great value? This is something we now have to think about.

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  1. woow….
    good article, I just read an article that was remarkable. and I agree with what you write. keep on blogging my friends

  2. Thank you so much, there aren’t enough posts on this… or at least i cant find them. I am turning into such a blog nut, I just cant get enough and this is such an important topic… i’ll be sure to write something about your site

  3. I saw this story on our local news and was outraged! The defense Cebu Pacific gave was pathetic. As an American recently retired here, I could not believe this story when I saw it. I applaud the boy’s mother for standing up to this stupid airline. My wife and I flew them once, but next time I was use another company as I will boycott Cebu Pacific. Thanks for posting this.

    (On another note, I came by to drop my entrecard but will have to wait until tomorrow since I have reached my limit for the day, thank you for your drop, and I will certainly add your blog to my drop list.)

    • Teacher Ria says:

      I felt the same way….the low fares and promos they offer are indeed enticing, but if they don’t shape up, they may lose a lot of potential business. Hopefully their policies will be revamped soon.

  4. Thank you so much, there aren’t enough posts on this… keep up the good work

  5. You cannot blame the crew in doing so for they are just following the company policy.
    It should be the head of the In-Flight Services be blamed.

    • Teacher Ria says:

      I agree that this is more of a systemic failure as compared to an individual crew members fault. Hopefully this serves as a wake-up call for the company so they can work on providing better services to their customers.

  6. I am really disgusted by Cebu Pacific’s customer service – they just do not have it! I hope that incidents like this one will open the eyes of the public to how bad Cebu Pacific’s service is and eventually affect how they treat their customers.

    I have had my own experiences with them. Thanks for blogging about this.

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