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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