Friday, September 30, 2011

By taking the side of PALEA, are we defending MEDIOCRITY and POOR SERVICE?

Apart from getting from point A to point B, there are a few other things that make for a good flight on any airlines.

To me, the most basic concerns have to do with a number of things:

Ticketing Operations.
Airlines ought to have flight schedules and up to date booking details available on their website.  The only thing that really trumps booking yourself online is having a number to call and having someone reasonably intelligent to help you figure out the best flight schedule.  Moreover, I like the idea of airlines keeping track of the number of times I have flown with them and I love the idea of being entitled to special privileges when I rack up a certain number of miles.

Check-In Counter.
After spending an inordinate amount of time in traffic going to the airport and then having to go through all sorts of security checks, I don't want to be given the additional hassle of having to wait in line just to Check-In and have my baggage stowed.

In-Flight Food and Service
Most flights I've been on recently are relatively short hops within Asia but I do care about the food I am served and how promptly I am given assistance with a number of things.

Baggage Handling.
After arriving at my destination, I don't want to have to wait long for my baggage and I don't want to see my baggage damaged or opened.

Sure, there are other things such as whether the In-Flight Entertainment is any good, whether I can actually do some work while in my seat, whether the seats are actually comfortable, and other stuff.  But, I usually don't mind these things too much because, unlike travelling by land or sea, I expect my travels my plane to be short, uneventful, and if possible, restful.

The most recent episode of PAL vs. PALEA has made me try to think and try to remember my experiences on-board the Philippine flag carrier.

So far, nothing good or bad really stands out in my memory.  Of course, my personal observations aren't any gauge for saying that Philippine Airlines service is at all remarkable or truly bad.  So, let's see how other sites have rated the airlines and what reviews have been given.

Airline Quality dot Com is the first one that comes up in Google Search and it basically gives Philippines a 6.1 out of a possible 10 or if you want to state it differently, PAL got a MEDIOCRE score.  Meaning, the service was not bad but it ain't that good either -- which kind of bolsters my earlier impression of their service.

The site indicates that 146 reviews were registered and listed below are some of the negative reviews that are weighing down the score of Philippine Airlines.

On September 16, 2011, R Sahana from Indonesia says:
CGK-MNL-FUK. The seat was old, the plane was dirty with water flowing from the lavatory. There's no pillow or blanket left for me, no explanation just they left me freezing. The food is okay, on my transit time at NAIA they gave passengers a coupon for breakfast but they don't give any information as to where we can use it. Shocked that there was no personal TV and the headset do not work well. 
12 August 2011 by J Slazenger   (Taiwan)
TPE-MNL-VAN. The food is awful, seats are old, worn out and cramped (Airbus A340). Service is poor with stewardesses and ground staff dismissive, if you can get their attention. Shared TV with few screens. They now charge $50 for an exit row seat. If you need to transfer in Manila be warned: the transfer process involves a lot of pointless hanging around.  
29 July 2011 by Jonathan Williams   (Thailand)
If you're flying to Manila, you can avoid the awful international terminal by flying Philippine Airlines (PAL). In the past 3 months, I have flown twice a month on PAL and over 70% of the time, they are late. It's only when you're checked in and sitting in the lounge that the inevitable delays are announced. Even 4 hr delays appear to take PAL by surprise. The aircraft are ok, cabins a little shabby.  
9 June 2011 by J Topel   (USA)
SFO to MNL Roundtrip. Flying to Manila, the sinks in the lavatory was clogged and dirty water was overflowing. The security tape around the toilet had peeled off. The service was substandard. When processing through Manila Airport to return back to SFO, three security check points failed to detect two bottles of water, bottle of gel, lighters, and a small pocket knife I used while fishing. The flight back, was substandard - 14 hours of no entertainment because both our screens wouldn't work. The flight attendants didn't care, and their subsequent customer service support was very poor.  
19 May 2011 by N Villareal   (Australia)
MNL-SFO-MNL. Service extremely poor Manila to San Francisco travelling with a child. We were charged US$100 for requesting bassinet seats for our child and the lady beside us travelling with babies wasn't charged at all! We then discovered no bassinets were available. We completed a formal complaint on the plane regarding the overcharge and no response from Philippine Airlines has been forthcoming. On the way back from San Francisco to Manila we were only charged $US50 for seats with a bassinet. The policy isn't consistent! Terminal two in manila travelling to SFO was just appalling - the lines were not organised.

24 February 2010 by C Santos   (Philippines)
BKK-MNL. Flight crew was lacking. Whilst some were making an effort, one was completely unprofessional and was rude. Whatever happened to PAL Smiles and Filipino hospitality? I guess they're only reserved for foreign passengers. Everyone else in Business Class might as well sit in Economy because they get Economy service.  
23 January 2010 by James Carter   (USA)
SFO-MNL. Business class was showing its age and lack comfort. Meals average with poor presentation. The crew were literally non existent and when present, did not smile.  
12 January 2010 by R Namiki   (Japan)
KLO-MNL return flight was my worst experience. Flight attendants not friendly at all, not even smiling. Also, they let the passengers put the baggage in the overhead compartments even when the aircraft is taxing to the runway, they'll ask you to remove your seatbelt and stand-up to put that baggage. The announcements are simple and not detailed compared to the other local airlines. MNL-NRT by Philippine airlines and that was another a worst experience. My seat was broken and cannot be reclined.  
15 November 2009 : by K Page   (China)
Philippines Airlines Business Class - there is space, which you'd expect but the cabin was horrible and in my return Manila-Honolulu flight I changed seats 4 times to find a seat that worked correctly or a TV screen that would hold itself up. The plane was very old, and to be honest a bit scary. I hope they maintain the engines better than they do the cabin. I fly business class on flights over 7 hours and this was the worst experience I have ever had. This airline is brutal with excess luggage - even 1Kg is charged (on this sector) US$150 -this is what they tried to charge me for my surfboard coming back from Honolulu. The confusing part for me is they didn't charge me to go over with it so I was shocked when they tried to charge me at Honolulu. I talked my way out of it and I could see the person had heard it all before as she tired of saying the same thing. 
Another top ranking site that turns up on Google Search is Blog Hotel Club dot Com and it lists Philippine Airlines as among the worst airlines.  Here's what it has to say:

Philippines Airlines
Antiquated planes make this airline one to avoid. The service is average and needless to say, no personal screens. The planes look old and feel old. You’ll barely see the screen while you shift around in seats older than the subtitled movie you’re watching. While the seats can be cheap, it’s an uncomfortable ride.
I have yet to browse through more website reviews of Philippine Airlines, but so far, the sites coming up on top in searches all seem to bolster my impression that among Airline services, the Philippine flag carrier is pretty much MEDIOCRE.

Now, workers' and employees' rights aside, I wonder if by taking the side of PALEA we are in fact defending MEDIOCRE SERVICE.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

PALEA engages in real sabotage? Whoah!

Engaging in work stoppage is one thing, but a direct act of sabotage is another - if Babes Romualdez column is to be believed.
Key-dnapping by PAL employee  
With Typhoon Pedring already causing havoc to millions of Filipinos all over the country, PAL employees chose to stage what has been condemned as an illegal strike, stranding over 14,000 passengers in the process. Passengers were naturally furious at what some described as “a highly calculated act of sabotage.” But what many find condemnable is the alleged stealing committed by a flight attendant. According to reports, this unnamed FA ran off with the key of the truck that would tow the passenger boarding ramp to the aircraft. Boarding ramps are used for safe boarding and de-boarding, and the alleged irresponsible act caused undue stress and anxiety to passengers. Whoever carried out this key-dnapping should be made accountable for making the passengers suffer emotionally and psychologically. What this flight attendant did is totally unfair and criminal – and he should be charged accordingly!

Various reactions on the PALEA strike

It's been two days since the Philippine Airlines Employees Association engaged in work-stoppage which the Philippine Airlines Management claims led to the 11-hour suspension of airport operations and the cancellation of almost 100 flights arriving and departing from PAL’s hub at NAIA Terminal 2. Further statements from the airline company say that almost 14,000 passengers were affected by the ill timed and illegal protest action that happened at the height of Typhoon Pedring.

Among the more interesting statements I read came from Gerry Rivera, the President of PALEA, who said in a statement that employees weren't able to access their computers after the passwords were changed.

Yet another statement comes from The Big Yellow Cheese himself. President Benigno Aquino the Third was quoted in an article on the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he: 
ordered Palace lawyers to check whether Philippine Airlines employees could be charged in connection with the cancellation of flights triggered by their work stoppage amid heavy rains Tuesday." 
The President said he initially considered the move by the PAL Employees’ Association (Palea) as a form of 'economic sabotage,' but later decided to allow his legal team to look more closely into the work stoppage." 
Mr. Aquino said he had been informed about a previous meeting in which Palea was reported as saying its members had “no plans to embark on such an activity.” He said the group should have issued a 24-hour notice that its members would not go to work. 
“They didn’t do any of those things and there was even a typhoon,” the President said. 
Quoting a provision in the Civil Aviation Authority Act of 2008, he said the employees could be “penalized with imprisonment ranging from one year to three years or a fine of not less than P50,000, but not exceeding P500,000 or more as determined by the court.”  
Considered as “acts leading to the disruption of airport services,” he noted, was the refusal of an employee to “perform tasks such as personally manning checking counters, to check in passengers.”
Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, blogger and Journalist Raisa Robles needles PAL over an apparent attempt to mislead people with semantics, specifically with the word "non-core personnel"
I can’t help but notice that a sit-down protest held by PAL’s ground employees yesterday totally paralyzed company operations and caused 14,000 passengers to miss their flights.  
Didn’t PAL keep saying – to justify the sacking of several thousand employees – that what they were out-sourcing were “non-core” activities?  
“Non-core” would mean that these activities are not that vital to their day-to-day operations, right?  
And yet when these “non-core” personnel struck yesterday, company operations were turned into total chaos.
Robles then leaves a link to a previous article where she underscores her abilities an an investigative journalist. Robles essentially tries to contextualize PALEA's strike, somewhat suggesting it is a justifiable recourse despite what the Civil Aviation Act of 2008 says.

American blogger Ben Kritz, who has studied and written about the airline industry, registered a more astute observation in the comment section of yesterday's article:
Divesting business units is a management prerogative.  
Believe me, I'm about the last person in the country to give PAL props for the way they run their business, but the outsourcing plan is completely beyond the purview of labor relations. 
And as bad as PAL's management is, the leadership of PALEA is even more stupid, and has almost willfully made every possible tactical mistake in dealing with this issue for more than a year. 
PALEA has never argued that the separation packages were unfair -- an argument the public might understand and be sympathetic to -- but instead that PAL should not be allowed to go through with the spin-off, which defies basic logic. 
And they wait until the 11th hour, 3 days before the outsourcing plan goes into motion, at the height of a typhoon, to stage an action that tries to earn support for their illogical position by pissing off the flying public. So how'd that work out for you, Mr. or Ms. "We have a right to job security?" Maybe not so well, I'd guess.
In the storm surge of negative reactions against PALEA's strike, noted Tattaward Nominee and Social Media Guru Carlo Ople offered free advice:
Build a Website that tells stories
When PALEA declared a strike the most common reaction you get from people is either “nanaman?” (again?) or “bakit?” (why?). There is no emotional connection with the strike and the audience. Instead of harping on how PAL is allegedly mistreating them they should focus on telling stories of human interest. This can be in the form of stories of the impact of the lay-off on several employees. Take all of these stories and put them on one central platform — a website. Tell the story in different ways: photos, videos, and text. Integrate the website with social media to pump up the chances of the issue spreading to raise awareness. Most importantly put a way for readers to signify their support. A good idea would be making an online petition via Facebook so that it’s as easy as one click 
Charm Offensive
 Another possible idea is to go on a charm offensive. Delight the usual people who take flights in an extraordinary way for a day and generate buzz online and via traditional media (get press to cover). One good example of a campaign is KLM Surprise.
Just this morning, Noemi Dado aka @momblogger tweeted a picture of PAL's counter with remarks that only two were open.

@momblogger tweets: “Off to Cebu for business trip. PAL has only 2 counters open to serve this crowd. ”
The rest of Pinoy Twitterdom registered mixed reactions with the more prominent ones noting the wrong timing of the PAL strike:

@grettelism di ba you used to work for @flyPAL? You think they'll be able to see eye to eye with #PALEA? 

@ZiaAlontoAdiong @khairyalonto @PrincessTarhata it really is unfair. Dapat may job security din sila. #PALEA

@elvinching12  Palea lost public respect! 
@iloveruffag This is the truth, and PAL management paid the media to make PALEA look bad.

 @rosymina Thought the PALEA strike was so untimely. But my bro said the strikers had good timing--they didn't disrupt the flight scheds, Pedring did.

@Olidex  @lesterhallig curious, do you agree with what the palea employees did?
@Bai_Ashrafia  @khairyalonto @ZiaAlontoAdiong I think #PALEA asked the CA to invalidate PAL's outsourcing plan. I just don't know how it was resolved. 
@khairyalonto @ZiaAlontoAdiong yes, #PALEA is striking because@flyPAL is going to outsource.

@dakila_ph  When your job is being taken from you, you have no choice but to fight for your family's future. #PALEA

@PrincessTarhata @ZiaAlontoAdiong #PALEA is on a strike because the employees are against the outsourcing plan of @flyPAL

@darwinrona  Now I know #PALEA's issue. It's sad many of them worked 4 PAL for like 20 years so a "contractualization" deal is really unfair to them.

@LovingGreyson Lucio Tan, if you're the one who said to lay off PALEA members, I will loathe you forever and hope you die a slow and painful death.

@chabdru I feel for PALEA employees. It just seems so unfair to them.

@MangBurns did somebody told #PALEA that an employer can terminate employees who participated in illegal strikes? <-- Good point. What were the leaders of PALEA thinking?

@leloyclaudio @yogon the PALEA workers have very few other options. They don't have tenure.

@stellarleni @humanoid1988 Pls understand that #PALEA workers are being illegally forced out of their jobs & have no choice but defend their job.

@ZiaAlontoAdiong @Bai_Ashrafia palea strike is about job security; i believe a lot were laid off and services were outsourced

@marccastrodes Palea has a valid cause but striking at this time of serious natural catastrophe is wrong! They couldn't have picked the worst time. Bad.

@marisolvirola Pls understand that #PALEA workers are being illegally forced out of their jobs & have no choice but defend their job.

@JerbertB @ANCALERTS report not true. PALEA members remain strong,steadfast, committed to fight PAL's bullying.

@itsmeStellaA @ogiediaz ang dapat gawin sa mga PALEA members na yan, lunurin sa baha.

@chrismillora RT @leloyclaudio: For those inconvenienced by the PALEA strike, blame the company and not the workers.
@AnuBaDay RT @leloyclaudio: For those inconvenienced by the PALEA strike, blame the company and not the workers. - I agree.
@rjkarunungan well, it's up to them ... #PAL and #PALEA
27 minutes ago

@filipinadiver Now I know #PALEA's issue. It's sad many of them worked for PAL for like 20 years so a "contractual" deal is really unfair to them.

@VinceCura I feel for palea employees, but seeing a swarm of anti-riot police at naia2 is just not the right image we want to show tourists.

@BigD899 If PALEA was hoping for sympathy with what they did today, good luck. Still, i hope their grievances gets addressed.

@leloyclaudio For those inconvenienced by the PALEA strike, blame the company and not the workers.

@shawievaldez I think it was wrong timing for the PALEA employees to have their strike, on a critical situation pa naman! Wrong move! Tsk tsk tsk

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PAL Employees Association Work Stoppage: A Lesson in "Entitlement"

It seems all hell broke loose yesterday.

Typhoon Pedring went amuck in Metro Manila with fierce winds and driving rain, forcing the suspension of classes and the closure of government offices.  Half listening to the radio while driving to a meeting in Ayala Avenue in Makati City, I could only imagine how the rest of the city was taking the beating.

Image from Manila Times

I wasn't so much concerned about the strong winds that were blowing down trees and billboards.  I was more concerned about Harvard Street, Provident Village in Marikina City and the water level of the Marikina River.

Two years and 2 days ago, Ondoy (not a typhoon) went through Manila and dumped more than a month's worth of rain in a span of hours.  Most of Metro Manila experienced flooding that only those who were alive in the 50's and 60's can remember.

As a Manilenyo, I tend to think of flooding with images of myself walking through black, stinky water along Espana Street in Manila.  It is the tame but icky black type of flooding that can only be described as every septic tank in Manila disgorging its contents on the street.

However, the flooding in Provident Village Marikina was a raging, brown torrent that in a matter of minutes submerged everyone's homes in 20 feet of water.

Just as I was about to park, reports on the radio of the work stoppage of Philippine Airline Employees Association or PALEA starting coming on.

Three hundred PALEA members who were supposed to be on duty that day had apparently timed in and manned their positions but refused to do their work.

Flitting from one AM station to the next, I heard some commentators describe it as a sit-down strike and others as work stoppage.

I couldn't help but think, "What the frick!"  All hell is breaking loose right now and these people decide to engage in what is definitely a protest against their company's management.

For the past couple of days I've been reading stories about how 1,400 to 2,000 PAL employees were protesting against what is called the PAL Spin-Off.

The terms of the Spin-Off, as I understand it, will cause PAL employees to be terminated with what seems like a generous separation benefit (125% of their monthly pay for every year they've worked in PAL) and then re-hired by outsourcing companies that PAL had contracted to provide passenger services.

From the looks of it, PAL Employees weren't being heartlessly axed and left all alone to fend for themselves in a tough job market. They were actually going to be re-hired by the out sourcing companies that PAL contracted for services.

Members of PALEA, of course, didn't think this was right and insisted that PAL should not terminate their employment.

They want to be kept employed under PAL even in the face of the fact that their company was not doing well financially, which is a good reason enough to start sacking people.

When other companies in the Philippines fall under hard times and have to let go of workers, most of the times these workers don't even get a separation pay and aren't even assured of employment at another company.

So, being on the outside looking in, I find it difficult to understand what they are protesting and if you were at all one of the passengers that flew on PAL yesterday, I don't think you'd actually sympathize with their "plight".

Prior to the PAL employee's work stoppage yesterday, about 34 flights were cancelled the day before due to bad weather.  I would guess that a number of those who flew in yesterday were from previously cancelled flights and were anxious to get on with their business or be in the arms of their loved ones.  More so, perhaps, because a number of them might be worried that their families and loved ones are having a difficult time at the height of Typhoon Pedring.

In a factory, when workers engage in work stoppage, the most serious thing that happens is that the company doesn't produce anything it can sell.  But in a service oriented business, this can spell a lot of inconvenience and if it is a public service as vital as an airline, it can some times be downright dangerous.

Can you imagine baggage crew not loading people's baggage improperly or overlooking the dozens of safety protocols just because they are on a sit-down strike?  Can you imagine spoiled food being served in flight? That's not to mention the thousands of passengers who might have been forced to stay at the airport looking for information or seeking some assistance.

It was a good thing though that PAL managed to field volunteers to take over the jobs that weren't being done by the striking PAL employees.  Perhaps it should have fielded the volunteers sooner but apparently they were kept from doing so and had to wait until the end of the shift of the striking employees.

All in all, I guess PAL employees should have thought their actions through first before engaging in a protest action that could have been dangerous or direly inconvenient.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Street protests against fuel price increases are just as stupid as planking

Planking is stupid and useless.  So are street protests over fuel price increases.

Protesting fuel price increases may have some temporary effect as some fuel companies may actually lower the price of gas, diesel, and other petroleum products because they are afraid of unrest. But over the longer haul, fuel prices are still going to go up.

When you talk about fossil fuel, you are talking about a commodity that is of limited supply and is in high demand.  In fact, the supply of fossil fuel is so limited that some people are saying that we may not even have enough to go around after 50 years.  More than that, the demand for fossil fuel is virtually limitless.

Even if all the Filipinos in the Philippines stop using gasoline and diesel until oil companies bring down the cost of fuel, the vast organizations that control this resource would probably not even notice.

The Philippines is a small blip on their radar, as far as demand is concerned.

However, what'll get their attention is if the Philippines finds a way to really break free from fossil fuels completely or at least at a significant level.

We have the resources and the know-how.

The real protest, the effective one, is using renewable energy.

Pnoy should probably stop talking with rebel groups and transport groups

Was it a couple of weeks ago that President Benigno Aquino III flew to Japan and talked with the leader of the MILF?  The objective of the meeting, perhaps just as historical as the Cory Aquino meeting with the MNLF, was to end hostilities between the MILF and the Government of the Philippines (GPH).  Weeks later, Aquino seemed to have been rebuffed by the present standstill of the peace negotiations.

Last week, President Aquino had a meeting with transport groups and at some point, it was announced that a potential transport crisis had been averted.  Friday last week, Piston and other groups rebuffed the President and declared a strike on Monday.

Now, I'm really beginning to worry about what his visit to China really achieved and what his upcoming visit to US and Japan will do.

This picture has absolutely no reference to the topic or personalities discussed in this blog.
It's just a picture of a cute, bald monkey.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Producing the Evening News is less than 1 percent as Difficult as Landing a Man on the Moon

Last night I was watching a documentary on how a bunch of MIT scientists created a program in 1960s that would automatically navigate the United States' first Lunar Orbit module.
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