LANGUAGE and communication are really important for people who love travelling. My stay in Indonesia as a guest in an international conference has been wonderful but the journey back home was extremely unexpected.
Our February 16 CebuPac flight was cancelled due to technical and mechanical problems. The cancellation was better than flying with mechanically broken airplane. Astagfir! Indeed, Allah is great. However, when we were asked to deplane, there were no clear instructions from the flight crews and ground staff on what to do and where to go. I wanted to help but I know a little of Bahasa. Many of the staff of Jakarta International Airport are having difficulty in using English, hence, communication became the issue.
After four hours of not knowing what to do next, we were asked to follow a crew outside of the boarding area to get our passports marked with cancelled at the immigration and have our bagagges back and will stay meanwhile in a hotel. Again, the instruction was vague. The ground staff informed us that CebuPac might find a way to bring in a new aircraft for us to be flown back to the Philippines on the same day. To our surprise, the cancellation of another flight was made and nobody again tried to explain why.
In the midst of the chaos, I and the 60 other passengers tried to catch the immigration's attention and asked them of what really happened. Again, expectedly, no one knew what to tell us. Suddenly, we were approached by five ladies, who were from our group, informing us to find a way to beg at the check-in counter for they have made changes to their tickets. Yes. They were given a priority to be in the regular flight that night. The only edge they have is their persistence and language ability to speak Bahasa with the ground staff.
Our team, the few survivors and left out passengers were again made to wait and given instructions to stay in a hotel and will be informed later of a possible rebooking tonight, February 18. This 2-day delay of flight caused so much loneliness and tension. One of us was supposed to celebrate his birthday with his daughter last night but were all cancelled due to this flight. Another girl was already crying while calling her family in the Philippines. She was telling them of her difficulty. Another mother refunded her ticket and bought a new one because her child is very ill. Another young lady has to beg the crew because her medicines are not available in the country. And the list of chaos went on with rest of us.
I know that the cancellation was the best thing to do when an airplane's engine is broken. We are sane enough to understand that it is all for our safety. However, CebuPac should have at least one Filipino crew on the ground who can make explanations and make us feel safe. The airline cannot just ignore the people who trust and depended on them. While the hotel and food services are okay, there is no better feeling when things are well communicated rather than leaving the remaining passengers find their way to understand the situation.
At this point, we can only pray that we can be taken by the Jakarta-Manila flight tonight and be in our home soon.
For CebuPac, find a way to bring in Filipino crews in all of your international destinations. You can do much better than this. Nothing beats clarity of language and communication.