Cebu Pacific Airlines, the Filipino Deaf and Me

Me giving the lecture
My Presentation about “Deaf and Travel Sensitivity Seminar”.

Last Wednesday (January 21), I was one of the invited resource speakers of Cebu Pacific Airlines. I have never imagined that I would be doing it! You see, I did many blog posts highlighting their blunders and blatant disregard about the welfare of Persons With Disabilities most especially the Filipino Deaf.

"Nothing about us without us". So I invited my uber-talented deaf protege Moises Libot to be my tandem.
“Nothing about us without us”. So I invited my uber-talented deaf protege Moises Libot to be my tandem.

To refresh everyone’s memory, I made my first blog post about them in April of 2008 when

“Cebu Pacific Airlines refused to board ten deaf passengers on a flight to the world renowned Boracay Island. All ten were already seated inside the plane, when the crew told them to disembark, citing their policy that blind and deaf passengers had to be properly accompanied in order to be treated as regular passengers. If unaccompanied, “he/she may be accepted for carriage provided he/she can take care of himself/herself on the ground and in-flight.”

You may read the entire post here.

Then I made a series of posts about Cebu Pacific’s blatant disrespect on the rights of those with physical impairments here, here and here. Former Senator now Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas made a letter seeking for inquiry about this matter. Other bloggers even picked up this incident by creating a stir within the community. I also made a post analysis about considering deaf people as flight risk .

In fairness to the company, they already made policy changes addressing the incident even months after the said incident. But this has been done after the case was filed by the PWD groups. I have no update about the status of the case. Their Guest Services Officer Mr. Ivan Gaw made a reply about this situation. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to meet him during my talk. The participants informed me that he attended the first day seminar.

Program content and front cover where my name was included as one of the speakers.

Seven years later, I haven’t heard any more discrimination incidents. I guess the company has learned its lesson and really made many concrete changes regarding fair treatment for all passengers especially those with special needs.

When the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) invited me to handle the sensitivity seminar for the deaf, flashbacks of those old wounds again went back to my mind. During those days, I was really hoping that the company would invite me to explain to them the needs of deaf people. But sadly I wasn’t given the opportunity…. until now.

Entitled “Demo-Workshop on Handling Persons With Disabilities who Travel”, I was one of those chosen by NCDA to give a lecture about the deaf sector. They also had speakers for persons who are orthopedically impaired, visually impaired and those with intellectual disability. The participants were a good mix of supervisors, officers and policy makers.

When asked about the urgency in conducting the seminar, one of them replied that this was part of the company’s fulfillment of international requirement for their long-haul flights especially in the US where they will be servicing for the first time.

Part of my lecture was discussion about the challenges of deaf travelers which are:

  • Deaf people can’t hear announcements and emergency or special attentions.
  • Deaf people can’t make telephone call reservations or follow ups.
  • Most airline TV monitors and on-board screens don’t have captions or inset interpreting.

Now, how do the deaf people handle these obstacles? Here is what I said:

  • Deaf people can travel without a sign language interpreter!
  • Deaf people can read!
  • Deaf people can communicate through writing.
  • Deaf people are very sensitive to other people’s body movements and gestures.

In other words, “Deaf people can survive all by themselves!!!!”

I even gave them my wish list of having inset sign language interpreter explaining their safety procedures. In their part, they said that most Cebu Pacific fleets are smaller crafts and don’t have monitors. However, they are considering my suggestions once they acquire air crafts with on-board screens.

My wish list of Airline Safety Procedure explained in sign language.


I believe that conducting sensitivity seminars like this is step in the right direction. However, what I want for the company to do is to embrace a culture change and not just to comply with international requirements. That way every in-flight service crew, airline pilots and even those who prepare the on-board meals would always consider the needs of everyone including those with physical disabilities. 🙂


Oops, Cebu Pacific Did it Again!

Cebu Pacific has been discriminating the Persons with Disabilities too much!

First blind and crippled Kathrina Segundo, on a flight from Dumaguete to Manila. Then, about ten Deaf Filipinos
and foreigner
s from Manila to Boracay. Next was wheelchair-rider Nonoy Concha from Cebu to Manila. Now, they did it again to a special child from Hong Kong to Manila!!!

The case Ms. Segundo filed was dismissed by the fiscal, arguing that there was no such discrimination by the airline simply because she was allowed to fly in the last minute! I bet the same situation will happen on the latest case that was filed if media stops covering this.

Mrs. Alcantara’s child was travelling with his mother, so, Cebu Pacific could not argue that he was “Unfit to travel unaccompanied” . Was the child a security or health threat? Did he have a bomb attached to his body? Was he a carrier of some infectious disease? What makes the airline think that their so-called company policies are above and beyond our constitution’s Bill of Rights?!

A boycott in the offing?

In the latest Business Mirror article, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Thursday denounced Cebu Pacific Airlines for its policy that disallowed a special child and his mother from boarding a Manila-bound flight from Hong Kong on December 23.

Pimentel prodded the aggrieved mother, Mylene Alcantara, to file a damage suit against Cebu Pacific to prevent a repeat of the incident.

“A case for damages can be filed against the airline,” he said, even as he expects human-rights advocates to also raise a howl of protest against Cebu Pacific’s alleged discriminatory policy.

“I cannot understand why a special child should be made to get out of the plane,” Pimentel said. He added that Cebu Pacific has a lot of explaining to do as it put the airline in a negative light.

In a separate interview, former senator Tito Sotto urged travelers to “boycott Cebu Pacific for the obvious discrimination the airline inflicted against the special child.”

“A boycott of Cebu Pacific is called for because what they did to Mrs. Alcantara and her son is not right,” Sotto said.

Cebu Pacific Apologized (Again and Again?)

It was also learned that Cebu Pacific management had conveyed its apology to Alcantara and her son, as well as other airline passengers who were inconvenienced by the incident that caused a one-hour flight delay.

In a statement, Cebu Pacific said it has no policy that discriminates against persons with special needs.

“The attempt to offload a passenger with developmental disability on a December 23 flight from Hong Kong to Manila was a result of the cabin crew’s misinterpretation of government regulations designed to assure the safety of passengers.”

The statement said that Cebu Pacific has apologized to the passenger and sincerely regrets the incident. It has also taken all the necessary measures to make sure similar incidents do not happen again and that passengers with special needs are properly attended to.

In my blog post dated January 22, 2009, Mr. Ivan Gaw, Head of Cebu Pacific Airlines Guest Services already made a long apology letter to Mr. Kevin Ray Chua, a prominent blogger from Cebu and a supporter of Sen. Mar Roxas.

He even promised that, “Rest assured that it’s not the intention of Cebu Pacific to discriminate anybody. We value all of our guest irregardless of gender, status, and condition.”. Hmmm….. oops they did it again! When will they ever learn?

More Cebu Pacific Woes

Di na talaga nadala ang Cebu Pacific!

I have blogged about the inefficiency, ineptness, sheer ignorance and rampant violation of human rights against Persons with Disabilities here, here, here, here, here and here. But again, they committed the same mistake as if they never learned!

Here is a news video link from GMA-7 about a mother suing Cebu Pacific for millions of pesos in damages brought about by her humiliation against the airline for forcing her to leave the plane because she is with her special child.

Dapat talaga kasuhan na yan para madala I believe that the company should be sued so that they can finally learn their lesson!

Cebu Pacific Replies

Here is the response from the Cebu Pacific Guest Services Head Mr. Ivan Gaw from the letter sent by Sen. Mar Roxas through Blogger Kevin Ray:

Dear Mr Kevin Ray Chua,

Greetings from Cebu Pacific!

Ms Rosita Menchaca, VP of Passenger Service of Cebu Pacific Air, endorsed to me the letter form Atty Blas James Viterbo of the office of our good Senator Mr. Mar Roxas, which was sent to her last 06Jan09 pertaining to the 10 deaf passengers which were bumped off for their Caticlan-Manila route.

Before, Cebu Pacific only accepts 2 unescorted passengers that requires special handling per flight. Passengers that required special handling includes expectant mothers, people with disabilities, medical cases, unaccompanied minor and the likes that whose physical, medical, or mental condition requires individual attention and/or equivalent not normally extended to other passengers during or when embarking, in-flight, in emergency evacuation, and ground handling at the airports.

During that time, the 10 deaf passengers including 1 companion were bumped off because of this ruling which we practiced before. We follow that previous procedure primarily because of the safety of all of our passengers including theirs which is our airline’s top priority.

This incident had been an eye opener also for our company. With this incident, we revised our procedures for carriage of Deaf passengers and still not compromising safety. Since July 2008, Cebu Pacific accepts unlimited number of unescorted Deaf/ Mute guests in all of our aircrafts provided that they shall be properly briefed by our Cabin Attendants about safety, the use of seatbelt, oxygen mask, life vest, route to the nearest exit, etc. The only condition is that they must not be seated at any emergency exit rows.

I am seeking for your help if it is possible for you to forward to me the record locator of their booking. All the tickets of the affected guests were refunded but applicable penalties were collected. Actually, Sir Lance (Gokongwei) already gave an approval for full refund of their tickets problem was the system limitation of our Revenue Accounting when they processed the said refund. They erroneously collected the penalties. If you can forward to me their record locator or ticket numbers, we can dig the files and return to them the penalties collected.

I’m also happy to inform you that we are coordinating with the group of Sir Nonoy Concha and party for an awareness seminar about proper handling of passengers with disabilities. We are targeting mid-February. We also would want to include our learning’s from this awareness seminar to the front line training program. I am constantly in loop with them.

Rest assured that it’s not the intention of Cebu Pacific to discriminate anybody. We value all of our guest irregardless of gender, status, and condition.

Thank you very much.

Ivan Gaw
Guest Services
Cebu Pacific Airlines

To Cebu Pacific, thank you very much for your speedy reply (almost two weeks) and for making some policy changes. Let’s hope that no more incidents like the previous ones will ever happen again. To Kevin Ray, thank you for helping us. Things like this must be recognized. 🙂

Ika nga ni Sir Lauro Purcil, ang aking idol at pinagpipitaganan kong PWD power advocate,

We all are citizens, consumers and service-subjects, and in this context we hope that Cebu Pacific would see the logic and the positive effects of our becoming a vigilant sector. We shall be meticulous (napakakulit) and will for duty and responsibility sake strictly demand global quality public services from government and the business sectors. No less than but quality, prompt, honest and sincere services we must demand. All services now are right
based in terms of quality standard.

Mabuhay ang sektor ng May Kapansanan! 🙂

Cebu Pacific Update: Senator Roxas Steps In

Cebu Pacific not accepting disabled persons

Cebu Pacific’s discrimination issue has been noticed by our very own Senator Mar Roxas. Thanks to the effort made by our blogger-friend from Cebu Mr. Kevin Ray Chua after sending an email requesting Mr. Palengke to look into the issue against Cebu Pacific. The humiliating incident happened when their manager told the ten deaf passengers, mostly foreigners, to get out from their seats after they are already comfortably boarded inside the plane.

Kevin, a staunch Mar Roxas supporter, wrote an email addressed to him. Here is Kevin’s email:

Good day Senator Mar Roxas!

It has been a long time since we have been communicating. I would like to tell you Senator that I had been blogging until now so that I can convince you to run for President in 2010 and let the people have a mindset that there will be and should elections in 2010 and Gloria’s Charter Change would not be an excuse to that. And by the way, when will you have the Cebu bloggers meet-up just like with the one in Manila with you? I already asked Carlo Ople when would it be, but he told me that it would depend on your schedule. Hope you can inform me Senator Mar.

And here’s my most important concern that I have to air to you and I hope that you can make this issue have a place in the media. I pity the Filipino deaf passengers of Cebu Pacific when they were not allowed to board their plane. We have coordinating with different bloggers in order to give this issue a priority as this exemplifies discrimination towards the Filipinos with disabilities.

Mr. Jojo I. Esposa Jr., a registered sign language interpreter in our country and has been signing for the deaf since 1992 has blogged about this at . He is a strong advocate of Filipino Sign Language and deaf culture. I hope you share my sentiment in giving respect to our deaf mute Filipino citizen.

Thanks Senator Mar for being my IDOL!


Letter from Office of Senator Roxas
For his part, Senator Roxas through his Chief-of-Staff Atty. Blas James Viterbo sent a formal letter to Ms. Rosita Menchaca, Vice President- Passenger Service of Cebu Pacific last January 6. The content seeks for an appropriate action regarding that incident. For convience of reading the PDF File of the letter, here’s the image of that file.

Let’s just hope that the management of Cebu Pacific would act on it. Thank you Kevin for supporting our cause. 🙂

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