Expensive ‘budget airlines’

Expensive ‘budget airlines’

IRONIC but true. The ‘budget airlines’ is no longer what it used to be, or supposed to be, as it turned albeit subtle into a mere public relations stunt and media-hype.

A known Negrense businessman Ed Alunan aired his complaint last week that Cebu Pacific (Cebu Pac) and Philippine Airlines (PAL), the only commercial airlines available in Bacolod-Silay airport, have been charging their commuters with unreasonable plane fares. If commuters book 2-3 days before flight schedule, they are charged P12,000 to P14,000 for two way, or P6,000 to P8,000 for one way.

Alunan’s complaint just added to thousands of unresponded complaints against these two airline companies.

I also had terrible experience with this issue several times. So with a lot of my friends. I am neither a businessman nor a frequent traveler. I book my flight a week or few days before my scheduled trip even if I knew of my schedules weeks or month before. Of course, I always wanted to book ahead, but the lack of cash is usual reason to do so.

Cebu Pac was the first to claim as a budget airline in the country. In fairness to Cebu Pac it made true to its claim, the reason for its steady growth. It introduced a lot of flight promos and its slogan “everyone can now fly” has made the company so popular that it rightly claims to be the number one now in terms of volume of passengers and number of routes.

It also popularized a promo that if you book far ahead you get super low rates. What it did not promote is when you book 2-5 days before your scheduled trip you have to pay double or even triple their “regular rates.”

The difference in the fare rates between buying plane ticket in advance and few days before is not in the real cost of flying, but in the greediness of these airline capitalists.

The ‘budget airline’ slogan is now a pure marketing gimmick to rake super profits. They force commuters to be in a situation where they have to buy ahead or they will pay higher fair rates. Those who can buy ahead are those with cold cash, business people with long and programmatic schedules, and frequent travelers and tourists. But the majority of our common folk, sectors, and even professionals would have to wait for the availability of cash and then book, which usually comes at the last moment. Others who want advance booking by force of circumstance had to apply for credit with travel agency.

Worse, they even become so ravenous during so called peak seasons or during season of festivals, like Holy week, Masskara Festival, Panaad Festival, Christmas, Bacolodiat Festival, among others. They charge commuters like hell without conscience.

So, the usual victims of this gimmick are the poor, the struggling citizens who want faster movement but hindered by their usual scrambling for money; never the moneyed class.

They mesmerize commuters to fly yet reality says flying is becoming expensive. They addicted people to flying, and now that it has become expensive people would still want to fly even if they had to agonize for the price.

If a businessman like Alunan complains, how much more with ordinary folk and the senior citizens who want to experience the luxury of comfort and fast travel but with limited fund.

It is ironic that budget flying is all about the comfort and glamor of flying, but never the making of a private service more accessible to more people. Afterall, Cebu Pac, like PAL, is a giant capitalist airline company, whose primary motives are profit and superprofits. The comfort of flying is not for free, only to those who can afford it and willing to sacrifice more.

Another thing, Alunan is also right to assert that Bacolod-Silay airport needs more competition. When I checked other routes. I found out that Iloilo offers lesser rates, and even much lesser for Air Asia with P2,700 to P3,800 for one way. Cebu flights offered lesser rates too. Few times I had to fly via Cebu to Manila.

There should be more airlines in Negros, real budget airlines, rather than limit it to two pretentious airline companies who conjure the mass illusion that “everybody can now fly.”

Looking at the bigger picture, the concerned city and provincial government officials and national agencies in Negros are also to be questioned for the unregulated conduct of the Cebu Pac and PAL, and the absence of other airlines.

How can Bacolod, Silay and Negros in general become conference hub and tourism destination when airlines are limited, and place fares are excessively high? Why is there no Air Asia, Sky Jet, and others in Negros?

Are these officials receiving payola from these airline companies that they have to ignore or be silent about the agony of the commuters even during peak seasons? If none, what’s the reason for their apparent silence?

Without solutions to this issue, without answers from concerned officials, I can only charge the conspiracy of the greedy airlines and callous government officials causing the bleeding dry of our flying commuters.

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