I usually focus on reporting the top-rated airlines, hotels and destinations, but today I’m sadly reporting the worst – Cebu Pacific Airlines and AirAsia‘s Philippine subsidiary have both made the list of worst airlines for on-time performance. Cebu Pacific only got 58.4% of flights to their destination on time (within 15 minutes of schedule) in 2018, making it the worst performing airline in Asia. Philippine AirAsia is not much better at 61.1% of flights on time. For comparison, the best Low-Cost Carrier (LCC) in Asia is Jetstar with 84.1%!
Arriving late at your destination is one of the most aggravating issues for travelers – you might miss your connecting flight or an important meeting or personal event. It can be costly, too, when you have to pay for hotels or food on your own.
Premium airlines that focus on customer service recognize this and work hard to achieve good on-time performance – the Top 20 is filled with 4- and 5-star airlines that achieve more than 80% on-time.
Granted, poor infrastructure and congested airports, like Manila’s NAIA airport (MNL), contribute to the problem, as do bad weather more likely in some regions than others. And you might point out that a low-cost carrier should focus on cost first and foremost.
But ultimately, poor on-time performance is a result of poor operations. Jetstar Asia (84.1%) and IndiGo (81.7%) prove that even LCC in tropical climates can operate on-time. And local competitor Philippine Airlines shows that having Manila as a hub doesn’t condemn you to poor on-time performance!
Flying on-time requires the airline to tune their operations accordingly and it starts with realistic flight schedules: if you know that Manila is permanently congested, you have to allow for enough time to turn around planes at the airport and “bake it into” your schedule.
You also have to train your staff to operate accordingly – I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat on a Cebu Pacific plane with boarding complete, yet waiting for paperwork to be delivered. That’s a pretty clear sign of poor operational efficiency!
Most travelers pick their airline based on price and schedule – and assume that the schedule is the same for all airlines. That is clearly not the case based on this report and you have to calculate extra time into your travel plan when flying on an unreliable airline.
What can you do? If you are on a leisure trip and arriving an hour earlier or later is not important, picking an airline based on price is ok. If you are booking connecting flights, make sure that it is on one ticket by the same airline, ensuring that the airline has responsibility to get your to your final destination. If you book, for example, a cheap ticket on Cebu Pacific to connect to an (expensive) long-haul flight on another airline, make sure to build in enough time, ideally an over-night stay, to make sure you make your connection – or you might loose your ongoing ticket completely and have to purchase a new one at full cost!
I sure hope Cebu Pacific and AirAsia wake up to this situation and make some improvements. While I can accept some delays, being the “worst” at anything is not a position you want to be in!
I also hope the Philippine government takes notice – consumer protection in the Philippines is weak and there is little cost to Cebu Pacific and Air Asia for being late. Regulation like in the European Union, that forces airlines to reimburse significant amounts to travelers delayed by hours, can push airlines to improve their operations!
You can find the full report of on-time performance at OAG
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