Two days prior our vacation in Bacolod the national news about the situation at the airport got my full attention. Last December 25, the NAIA Terminal 3 was packed more than usual and some irate passengers were recorded hurling expletives at those manning Cebu Pacific’s check-in counters. The video footage shows absolute disorder and it appears that these people aren’t just the regular grinches but rather those with valid reasons to forget the Christmas spirit altogether. I would soon experience the same frustration.
Wanting to avoid falling victim to heavy traffic, Marcus and I left Batangas about six hours before our flight. Yes, six hours. We reached Park ‘N Fly earlier than expected despite a close call at SLEX Shell station when Marcus nearly choked himself out—no thanks to a Mentos mint that got me frantically recall how to execute a Heimlich maneuver—and slow traffic at Andrews Avenue due to an ongoing flyover project. We got one problem down. Our shuttle bus dropped us off to the next.
NAIA terminal 3 was not as bad as reported but people being fixated to the check-in monitors like eager runners waiting for the starting gun to fire gave me some hint on what to expect. Trying to remain optimistic, I observed and actually started to conclude that ours could be a better day. My assessment was wrong.
Our own Cebu Pacific experience happened after four hours of waiting patiently. Upon reaching Cebu Pacific’s check-in counter and a couple minutes of nervous finger tapping, I soon heard the attendant say the heartbreaking words: your flight is overbooked.
To compensate for the missed flight we were offered free overnight stay in a hotel and re-scheduled to fly the next day. Conceding to a day of vacation lost, I accepted our fate—especially upon seeing Marcus excited at the idea of being in hotel—and weaved our push cart in and out of the crowd to another check-in counter. This time we lined up to the hotel accommodation queue where we spent almost 45 minutes inching our way to the counter together with foreign tourists. Marcus and I were with disappointed Italian, American, and Korean passengers of Cebu Pacific.
After repeatedly answering Marcus’ questions about the hotel—“Is there a bath tub”, “What’s the size of the bed”, “Is there cable TV” among others—I found hope. The guy who said that our initial flight is overbooked got back to me and asked if I want to take the flight that will leave past 10 in the evening. I took the chance and got our boarding pass minutes later.
Two hours before our new flight we were already at the boarding gate 133 area. In between his Jetpack Joyride and Minecraft games, Marcus would take a glance at the digital clock and counted the minutes to go. Sadly, we were soon listening to the ’on-behalf-of-Cebu-Pacific-we-regret-to-inform-you’ spiel. The advisory happened over and over. Flights to both Cebu and Bacolod got delayed several times that people around us started booing the equally helpless Cebu Pacific ground personnel. I didn’t participate—I was busy spoon-feeding Marcus the free Jollibee Chicken Joy meal and noodles that the airline provided.
The area was almost deserted when our plane finally arrived. It was past one o’clock in the morning. The Krispy Kreme and Army Navy stores were already dark and when the time to board was announced the passengers lined up to the gate tired but happy to get out of the place. 16 hours after we left Batangas we arrived in Bacolod. (Come to think of it we could be ready for longer flights—like one going to the land of milk and honey.) I am now keeping my fingers crossed that we will have a better trip back to Manila tomorrow.
Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Sun is peeking out.)