In the ensuing comments in my previous post, Cebu Pacific’s monumental failure: A new online reservation system, several people questioned why I appeared to be singling out Navitaire and its online reservation system SkySales in the current Cebu Pacific brouhaha.
I gave thought to this after reading Aileen’s post on how she lost money because of Cebu Pacific:
I booked 4 members of my family for a trip to Jakarta. Because of the new policies of DSWD and the long time it takes to get documents from NSO I was not able to obtain a travel clearance for my son despite all the efforts I put in it. In short, I had to cancel his ticket.
Unfortunately the time I had to cancel the ticket was the time that Cebu Pacific decided to upgrade (a.k.a. mess up) their system and my calls and emails were left unanswered. I was also advised that it would take more than half a day if I went to their office as it was jampacked like a rock concert. I cannot stand crowds and hey I’m a very busy person, I cannot take half a day out just to cancel a ticket. Besides what are customer hotlines and emails for if you cannot call and seek assistance through these channels?[An Apple A Day]
While the failure coincided with the transition to the new system, I might have been a little harsh on Navitaire, as it appears that some other changes were taking place which caused the swamping of Cebu Pacific ticketing offices at the time. This was confirmed by an email sent to I-NAV Travel & Tours:
17 MARCH 2008
TO : ALL SUB – AGENTS
FROM : [omitted]
SUBJECT : MANUAL TICKETS
Please be informed, effective 01 April 2008, the new system, New Skies by Navitaire will no longer accept manual tickets and these will be purged from the Cebu Pacific system. All unused manual tickets shall be surrendered to Supersonic Services Inc., and all issuance beyond 01 April 2008 shall be considered as unauthorized and the corresponding penalties shall be imposed on violators.
Please be advised, likewise, Cebu Pacific will be pulling out from the BSP and IATA agents will be no longer be able to issue BSP tickets.
Agents that do not have the new system, Navitaire, installed in their offices, may continue to transact business for Domestic and International tickets thru Supersonic Services Inc.
Clearly, not only was there a software change, but a simultaneous process change scheduled for April 1, 2008.
Around March 30, Cebu Pacific issued an advisory in their website that their online booking system would be taken down until noon of April 1.
What happened on April 1 was telling, as experienced by Melynn and her partner travel agencies. Nobody was answering the phones at Cebu Pacific. This was particularly disastrous because travel agencies which were not connected to Cebu Pacific’s system either had to use the call centers or the ticketing offices. Everyone, including online customers, were also supposed to use the call centers to rebook and cancel flights, or request for refunds (like Aileen did).
Since nobody could call, everyone showed up in the ticketing offices. Disaster struck, and it appears that it has not yet shown signs of abating.
I still stand by my observation that the confusing way by which SkySales handles credit card payments is a major flaw that has to be changed, or at least made more clear. However, I now believe that SkySales or New Skies is not the weakest link in this Cebu Pacific saga.
The weakest link was the sudden, eerie crash of Cebu Pacific’s call center services.
As of writing it still takes an average of 45 minutes wait before a human would answer your call to Cebu Pacific. The problem is exacerbated by the confusion caused by the disambiguation of reservation and payment, with people wanting to know why their payments are still pending after a few days, or why existing confirmed and paid reservations appearing and disappearing from the system intermittently, or wanting to cancel their transactions completely.
We could only speculate as to what really is happening in Cebu Pacific, but right now the following mistakes are clear:
- A change of software was made simultaneous to a change in workflow/processes. This is almost inevitable, but can usually be compensated with vigilant customer support
- Call center services were taken down/became inefficient just when they were needed most
- Customer service emails were also being ignored (as per Aileen)
- No additional personnel have been delegated to ticketing offices despite weeks of backlogs and being swamped by customers
- Perhaps mitigation steps have been taken but seriously, none of them are working
It is an understatement to say that Cebu Pacific has some people problems in its organization, especially in terms of handling its customers and customer feedback systems, namely, the call centers and emails. I really hope Cebu Pacific would be able to resolve all these problems, and that Navitaire can help them expedite the resolution of any technical issues they still have.
So my previous statement still stands: avoid Cebu Pacific for now. We’re gonna tell you when Cebu Pacific’s human agents are able to answer promptly again.