26 September 2008

The Shame That IS PAL

September 16, 2008

Mr. Jaime J. Bautista
President & Chief Operating Officer
Philippine Airlines

Dear Mr. Bautista,

I am writing to express my disgust with the quality of service and the attitude of personnel of Philippine Airlines. I have long heard of many bad things about your company but my experience last September 15, 2008 in your Cubao Sales Office left no doubt of the values that your company holds.

It is a shame that PAL is the country’s flag carrier. You do not deserve to have this title. With the quality of service, or the lack thereof, that you provide, you are a disgrace to this country. You are indeed Asia’s oldest airline, not because you are a pioneer but because your service is Jurassic and outmoded.

For you to understand this great dissatisfaction that I feel towards PAL, please allow me to share the events that lead to that unfortunate day of September 15.

Early September, after seeing an advertisement on your promo rate, I logged on to your website to book a ticket to Bohol for late November. I was surprised to see however that the advertised rates are not available online. I decided to call your telephone reservations hotline but was only able to connect after numerous redials and after being put on queue for the longest time.

After knowing that I can avail of a cheaper rate over the phone than online, I decided to make a reservation and was told to pay for it on or before Sept 15. Given that you have very limited sales offices, and only one (Cubao) near me, I was only able to visit on September 13, a Saturday.

But alas, to my surprise, it was closed. It is closed every Saturday afternoon and whole day of Sunday. On weekdays, you’re only open until 5pm! Why a sales office with limited locations would close on weekends I beyond me. Cebu Pacific is open until 9 or 10 pm, 7 days a week!

But of course, what can I do? I have to miss work on Monday just to pay for this ticket. So I went back Monday lunch and arrived at a place with hundreds of angry people! I was given a number 1186, and the number was still in 900! At 3PM or 3 hours after, the number is 999 – which means I’m not even halfway near. If this trend would continue, I would be accommodated past 6pm already, if I’m lucky!

But the waiting time is not the only problem. The attitudes of your employees are the worst that I’ve seen. If the attitude of your employees is even just half the quality of the service crew of Max’s Restaurant beside it, you would be worthy of being the country’s flag carrier. Come to think of it, the waiters have a more stressful job, but they can still afford to smile.

But your employees? Not only a smile was never to be seen, they are very rude! Your guards were shouting at the customers. Your agents were angry and irritated by questions from would be passengers. When I asked one agent a question, all she told me was “Sir, ask from the information.” So I went to the information, only to find out that no one is manning it because the ONLY person assigned was having lunch – and it was 1:30 in the afternoon!

So I went back, and ask another teller if I can pay by credit card over the phone. He said no, but another agent beside him said yes, so he told me “Sir, can you just call our hotline and ask from them?” Wow! Do they even have training? Not a single employee that day showed any courtesy to me or to any passengers that day. I even heard a foreign looking customer arguing with your agent with the customer shouting in despair at the end of the argument “I’m never going back to the Philippines!”

I was also wondering why after doing this everyday for so many years, you don’t even have a system to manage your ticket selling efficiently. You have electronic numbering but it is not being followed. Those who came later are being called first than the people who were there earlier. The guard explained this by saying that you could be called by your number or by your name. How is that possible, he can’t explain. There were also not enough seats for everyone. And you can’t leave even to eat because once they passed you, you have to get a new number. No one would give you an estimate so you really have to wait.

Now, please tell me Mr. Bautista, is this the kind of service that you can be proud of? You really think you deserve the title of the country’s flag carrier? You had a press release before saying that you expect a rough time ahead because of high fuel prices. But I tell you this, you’re greatest challenge is how to win back customers who lost their trust. Because for now, I will never buy my airline ticket from your company. And I will ask my family, friends and anyone who will listen to do the same until you have changed.

Without us, you have no business. So why don’t you give back a bit of what you’ve earned? Invest on a better system (online and on site sales offices), train your people on proper customer service, and make them appreciate their job. A piece of advice, let them eat at Max’s beside your Cubao branch and maybe they can learn a thing or two on customer service.

We don’t want to be pampered, we just need to be RESPECTED! We need to be treated like human beings every time we transact business with you. Is that too much to ask for?

Froilan Grate
Dear readers, How do you feel about PAL?

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