Traveling is now a part of my lifestyle. Thanks to lower airfares available and these made me travel more to destinations I haven’t been before. Last weekend, I was in Hong Kong and Macau to spend some days off out of the country. It’s been more than 2 years since I stepped out of the Philippines and the first one was some sort of a “sideline” with only a day to go around Singapore.
Me and my friend booked for a Cebu Pacific flight to HK last May and we got a sweet deal of 4,214 per person exclusive of Philippine taxes (amounting to Php 1620 + Php 750 as compared to HK’s Php 1,290). As a person who loves to take pictures, I brought with me my dad’s tripod – the one he bought in France even before I was born. Typically, tripods are classified as “deadly weapons” and items of these type should be checked-in. When we were checking-in, I asked the check-in agent to classify my baggages as “Fragile” as my checked-in items contain fragile items with my bag containing chargers for batteries while the tripod is of course being a light material required to check-in. The check-in agent asked me if I prefer to have the tripod be a “gate-intercepted” item, meaning an item required for check-in will be allowed entry up to the boarding gate. The agent who would be there would get the item for transfer to the proper location – that is the item should be included in the checked-in items with the exception that the tripod won’t pass through the conveyor to prevent breakage. It was my first time to hear that word – “gate-intercept” but for the heck of it, and for the “concern” they have for my tripod, I guess it would be a good idea. Upon reaching the boarding gate, the woman who was holding a radio then got my tripod. I asked her if the tripod would reach HK, and she said, “Yes, sir.”. I re-affirmed: “Guaranteed?”, she replied back, “Yes sir, guaranteed”. Taking those words, I felt “assured” that my trip would be A-Ok and my items would be there, safe and sound.
The plane flew and we arrived in HK, 20 minutes ahead of schedule. After disembarking from the plane, exchanged USD to HKD, immigration, we were off to experience HK. On the baggage carousel, I found out that my tripod wasn’t there. I waited for 10 minutes hoping that the item would be there but none to avail. The Chinese woman who’s checking the baggage carousel told me to proceed to the “Baggage Enquiry” counter but to my dismay at Counter 1, where Cebu Pacific is assigned to has no attending agent. I waited for another 20 minutes but no one came. An officer approached me and told me that there’s no agent for 5J (IATA code for Cebu Pacific). DAMN! That tripod, more than it’s commercial value, is more meaningful to me (with reasons mentioned above). We arrived in HK around 7 something in the morning but we already left the airport around 9 something just to follow-up for that freaking item and yet no one responded to my help. So as not to spoil the trip, I kept pertinent information with regards to the whole situation. That is I took the Cebu Pacific flight 5J-108 bound for Hong Kong last 27 September 2008 and my tripod with tag 300128 never got into my hands when I landed in HK.
Upon my return in Manila, I was able to talk to a Cebu Pacific agent attending to the baggages arriving from flight number 5J-111. I told him the incident and he got me a paper getting all the information regarding my missing checked-in baggage. In the course of our conversation, something was raised up that triggered my curiosity. The guy who got the details told me that they’ll check with their records if indeed that baggage passed through their system. That alone is quite alarming since that package was gate-intercepted. How come could an item captured by the boarding agent as a “gate-intercepted” item be entered in the system to think it didn’t pass the conveyor. Smells fishy but I gave them as well my contact details for “updates” to the situation which I can say 90% will not happen as based from other feedbacks given by other disappointed passengers. But to be fair sure with everyone, before I left Hong Kong, I also submitted a “Lost Baggage” report to Hong Kong International Airport authorities to validate if indeed a package with that tag number do really reached Hong Kong. If their records prove to be nil, then all I can say is that package never left Manila and possibly in the possession of the boarding agent who got my tripod in the morning of 27 September 2008 in Gate 112 of NAIA Terminal 3 for the 5J-108 flight of Cebu Pacific to Hong Kong.
Oh please Cebu Pacific, please don’t use the lame excuse as a “budget carrier” why your customer service sucks. As a service provider to the riding public, you should be more consumer service oriented and refrain from escaping your responsibilities just because of the reason you keep on uttering. I know I am not the only one having a bad experience with you but don’t lose the trust of the people who keep on patronizing your services.
I will update this blog once the report of the Hong Kong international airport comes and let’s see what really happened to that tripod.