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. 🙂


Yay! First 22500 Visits!

Yehey! Another triumph for me. With only four posts and nine days later, I got my first 22500 visits! This is the shortest and fastest time I was able to reach 2,500 visits. Congratulations to me! hehehe

This month is significant to me because its the time where mainstream Filipino bloggers took notice of my posts, picked them up and made discussions threads about them. The controversial issue was about the discriminatory act made by Cebu Pacific against the ten deaf passengers. It’s with these causes that blogging really becomes a potent force to expose their inhumane acts.

This development boosted my Filipino visitors to 26%, an increase of a per cent. At least, it generates interest from my own countrymen. However, my top visitors remain Americans with 57%. My GeoCounter shows that 39 people from Saudi Arabia visited my site. I wonder why. 🙂

There are already 30 blog posts/web sites linking here. I also have more than 200 comments and pings with 15 responses coming from my first blog post.

After reaching 25,000, I will start congratulating myself after every 5,000 visits. 🙂

Cebu Pacific discriminating deaf passengers stirs attention from Filipino bloggers

Cebu Pacific Logo with Discrimination of Disability
I know that the incident involving Cebu Pacific happened earlier this year. But at least people from outside our community are slowly taking notice of it. After making it my first blog post in April, some notable bloggers picked it up and commented about it. I have so far collected a few and I’m posting them here.

Here is the blog post link made by Filipino Voices entitled “No Hear, No Fly” which so far has more than 36 responses. Filipino Voices Blog was awarded one of the Top Ten Emerging Influential Blogs of 2008.

Another Award Winning Blogger Jester-in-Exile posted his though-provoking insights. The issue was also being discussed in Plurk and other social networking

Mr. Kevin Ray Chua, web designer of Mar Roxas for President in 2010 already wrote an email asking Mr. Palengke for his assistance and would also blog about this.

This is shameful” was the intriguing blog title posted by Bny Castro on his The Beanster Blog.

Cebu Bloggers also made a forum thread discussion (Blog Swarm) about this. I have also added this on the All Deaf Forum to find out the international deaf communities’ sentiments.

There was even one commenter saying that he would fully support us should we file a class suit against Cebu Pacific and would even help us in rallying for our cause. I would ask the organizers of Philippine School for the Deaf Centennial Celebration if the 10 deaf persons would want to file a case.

Blogger Rom made an opposing scenario where a deaf person needs a caregiver.

Ms. Katrina Segundo, a deaf-blind person from Dumaguete City personally took the challenge and filed a case against Cebu Pacific last November 17. I will post here the progress of her court case as it unfolds.

In behalf of the Filipino deaf community and the rest of the PWDs in the country, we are truly grateful for the support you guys gave to us. Let us hope that Cebu Pacific or other companies and government agencies that trample the law and basic human rights would think many times before repeating their sins. The Internet is now a powerful avenue for exposing your discriminatory activities. Mabuhay ang mga Pilipinong may K! :-

Are deaf people considered as flight risk?

I received this reponse from a flight attendant codenamed “theskygirl” about my blog entry on Deaf passengers not allowed to board Cebu Pacific Airline.

theskygirl, on August 21st, 2008 at 12:56 am Said:

It goes with the procedures in an airline. As you can see, Cebu Pacific has only Airburs 319’s and 320’s – with three to four cabin crew. It’s with their discretion if they would want to take 10 deaf people on board, not unless they have let’s say 18 cabin crew? It goes with the ratio as what aviation people would say. One cabin equals to fifty passengers I suppose for an Airbus. And think about having emergencies on board. You cannot accommodate 10 deaf people with only 4 cabin crew.

I’m a flight attendant from a different airline. And we have standards when it comes to passenger handling. For example you have four cabin crew on board, usually your airline (again with it’s discretion) would allow 2 deaf people on board. Again, when it comes to aviation, sometimes it would be unfair if we would react negatively. Think, safety.

I am very elated that someone from the airline industry, a flight attendant like Ms. Skygirl would go out of her way to reply. Thank you very much for commenting. You are greatly appeciated. 🙂

Now, for my reaction. I believe this merits a separate blog post and not just a comment-reply. I go back to my earlier explanation about people’s general ignorance and common misconception about deafness and Deaf people.

If airline companies have policy against boarding ten or more deaf passengers because of safety concerns, does it mean that they are considered as flight risks?

Please remember that a Deaf person only has one ability lacking, the ability to hear. He can run, jump and swim just as fast as anybody else because he has complete and functioning extremities. He doesn’t need someone to lead him just like a blind person. He doesn’t need to be pushed and carried into his wheelchair just like an invalid or orthopedically impaired person. He has a complete state of mind and can recognize his surroundings unlike a mentally challenged or autistic. He can listen to instructions with his eyes. Think of Deaf people as people who are from a different nationality and don’t understand English.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that there is an emergency situation. The stewardess would announce that something is wrong with the airplane. People started to get panicky. Do you think a Deaf person would do his own thing and not copy what other passengers are doing? Certainly not! If the emergency oxygen mask drops from the ceiling, what would you normally do? Would the ten deaf people do it differently? Do they need individual personal instructions from the crew when the “Seatbelt On” red light is flashed on the plane’s ceiling? Remember, they are not blind.

I don’t consider harping about this incident a negative reaction. I consider it as a clear violation of the Deaf’s basic human right to travel.

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Update on Airline Not Allowing Deaf Persons

Cebu Pacific Logo with Discrimination of DisabilityMy first blog entry was about the discrimination and humiliation done by Cebu Pacific Airlines against Deaf passengers.This is an update of what the Persons with Disabilities sector has been doing in reference to this incident.

  1. The National Council on Disability Affairs Sub-committee on Accessibility are discussing the formal filing of official complaint directly against Cebu Pacific Airlines. Although the government agency was previously tasked to monitor the implementation of policies, they are now empowered to lead in such activities.
  2. Mr. Stephen Alcantara, Development Manager, Regional Office – CBM South East Asia and one of those people involved in this activity said,

    The Transportation Summit people were also informed about the same. The representative of the Civil and Aeronautics Board (CAB) assured prompt action, only if the victims would formally file a complaint. While it is true that it would mean so much time and efforts, yet, if the victims will not make the initiatives, even interested and willing government people and advocates will not have the personality to move on these cases. Media reports are helpful but, if the victims will not pursue the case, no case can be processed.

  3. Because of the words spread through the Internet, another similar incident was reported in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. Ms. Katrina Segundo filed an official complaint enumerating her horrible experience with the Cebu Pacific Dumaguete City Branch in the afternoon of October 26 last year. Their office initially refused to issue her a Boarding Pass as they deemed her “Unfit To Travel Unaccompanied” . However, after hours of negotiation, and due to her knowing her rights, she refused to cede to their “Company Policy”, and was, on the last minute, allowed to board their aircraft.
  4. The UN-CRPD group is now working on the policy level, which in effect attempt to incorporate related CRPD provisions on transportation and accessibility.

I thought this incident is only isolated in the Philippines. I read from other bloggers related to disability that a similar incident happened involving Singapore owned Tiger Airways. A group of deaf people from Melbourne, Australia has launched a discrimination case against Tiger Airways after the budget carrier insisted they travel with a carer last April.

As I have mentioned before, a deaf person can travel alone and does not need an interpreter. I hope that Cebu Pacific would clarify their policy. What must be done is to create some sort of a response mechanism in order to address matters similar to this in a structured manner aimed at a long term solution.

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