Cebu Pacific’s monumental failure: A new online reservation system

Cross posted from Ang Kape ni LaTtEX.

UPDATE: I posted a second installment to this saga, "Cebu Pacific's failure isn't in the software, it's on the phone".

Melynn, who operates I-NAV Travel & Tours, got pissed yesterday. She arrived at the Cebu Pacific ticketing office at 10 in the morning. By the time she was done, it was already 3 in the afternoon. The office was simply overwhelmingly jampacked.

Nope, there was no Piso Fare promo going on. Everyone was doing their transactions manually because Cebu Pacific just changed their perfectly fine online reservation system with a massively confusing online facility made by Navitaire.

I don't know precisely why Cebu Pacific replaced their previous online system. It was working fine last time. But a few weeks ago they changed it and it is now what it is.

At first the bugs seem to be really simple, and as a web developer myself I understand how bugs such as this could happen:

Bad rendering of div blocks in Cebu Pacific site via IE7

That's a screen shot of the online reservation system jumbling its div tags in Internet Explorer 7.0.

Cebu Pacific doesn’t work with Firefox 2.0

And the online reservation system absolutely doesn't work in Firefox 2.0. Or at least doesn't go beyond the flight search page. Which renders it useless for FF users. I wonder how it is in Safari.

However, the above are simple bugs really. It's easy (at least for me) to excuse these kinds of errors.

But along the way they also changed things that shouldn't be changed. A guy named Phen commented this on a previous thread about Cebu Pacific's service:

I used to fly Cebu Pacific for my personal trips, the reason being cheap. However with what happened to me last April 4, 2008 for my Davao-Cebu flight, I will never be on this carriage again. I was supposed to fly to Cebu at 6.30 am, I was there at Davao airport 5am. Upon checking in, I was told that I couldn’t take the flight because my ticket wasn’t confirmed! I purchased it online with confirmed status clearly indicated in my print-out. The not-so-customer-oriented staff pointed out that the status for payment was pending, which was written at the bottom part of the ticket. Who on earth would think that you were not able to pay when you got a confirmation?! And worst, nobody from Cebu Pacific thought of calling me to let me know. I was denied right on the spot, and when I asked for their assistance to at least get me in, the lady in the check in counter just instructed me to go to the ticketing office.

Here comes the worst part, no one from the ticketing office had the consideration to prioritize me or give me a confirmed reservation for the next flight at the least. The ticketing staff, Mr. Jonathan Leonor, just told me to wait so that they could check. I was waiting already for an hour, and got the same response when I asked for a reservation. He had even the gut to go out for a cigarette break, what kind of staff are these? [Is Cebu Pacific hoodwinking its passengers into empty flights?]

I verified the above with my wife, and she said it was true. Their e-tickets now have two statuses that you have to check: reserved and paid, and instantly confusion is introduced into the system. Let me illustrate:

  • Reservation is pending and payment is pending. Can you board the plane? No.
  • Reservation is confirmed and payment is pending. Can you board the plane? No.
  • Reservation is pending and payment is confirmed. Can you board the plane? No.
  • Reservation is confirmed and payment is confirmed. Can you board the plane? Yes.

There is exactly one and only one set of conditions where you can board the plane, and that is when both reservation and payment are confirmed. Why did they have to break the two down and confuse the passengers? This disambiguation which instead of making things clear has led to utter confusion is an act of monumental stupidity on the part of both Cebu Pacific and the software developer Navitaire.

Passengers do not care if either their reservation or their payment is confirmed or not. Passengers only care if they can board the plane or not. This is the question that needs to be answered, and clearly Cebu Pacific does not answer this question clearly in their system, and the result is pissed, inconvenienced passengers who have suffer the hassle of being turned back and made to cancel their travel plans because Cebu Pacific did not make things clear to them.

Yes it sounds cliche, but I really have to say it here: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Cebu Pacific should not have changed their previous online system. Or at least Navitaire should've entered a more intensive QA phase wherein they hallway-tested the results of their system where it would be revealed that their e-tickets are absolutely confusing.

So for the record: Avoid Cebu Pacific at all costs. At least for the next few months -- until they fix their system, or bring the old one back.

About Jon Limjap

Jon Limjap has been programming since he was 12 and hasn't stopped yet. He was gone for a while in iOS and Java land, but is now back in .NET searching for unicorns and hunting down dragons.
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5 Responses to Cebu Pacific’s monumental failure: A new online reservation system

  1. andre says:

    apparently Navitaire optimised their system for IE 6.0? :P

  2. jerbersoft says:

    natawa ako dun sa DIVs nila. scrambled. have they (NAVITAIRE & CP) even tried to test the ticket reservation & booking system nila?

    lagot ang NAVITAIRE. they caused Cebu Pacific a big thumbs down from its customers. :D

  3. LaTtEX says:

    jerber,

    Well I wouldn’t blame it entirely on Navitaire; for one the problem might be on Cebu Pacific’s side. The customer-facing problems are definitely theirs. It appears na hindi properly trained ang personnel nila in handling customers.

    Seriously, both Cebu Pac and Navitaire should IMMEDIATELY work together in solving these problems to save them from any legal trouble. Pera kasi ang pinag-uusapan eh.

  4. I’m always been a regular passenger of Cebu Pacific. That is, i can stand to wait 3hours to get a reservation or booking here in davao as they have only two booking offices. But it doesnt matter as I had confortable flight always. I say fligth because its been fine always, before the flight that is the problem. Problems incurred by my grave tardiness and our domestic airport that sucks.

    I prefer Cebu Pacific primarily because their planes DVO-MLA are all new unlike AirPhil which are old. Add to the fact that one of their plane crashed here in davao for the reason that allegedly is not well maintained. AirPhil planes as stated on the news are not PAL’s, they are just leased/rented from a US company.

    I have been late many times, but i found their custoemer service at the airport friendly and accomodating. Even the security guards. On the purpose of fairness, I had nice experiences with CebuPac, never had good experience with Airpil (just used it twice).

    The case with the online system is different.

    The different status of reservation IMHO is for the purpose of clarity. Foreign cards when used to book a fligh for another party is often marked fraudulent which caused a lot of hasle. There might also be online reservation compare to the old system where you really have to pay before you can book. The page also is more friendly as I can see teh rates on every page. The Price Details and Flight Details looks nice.

    Let’s accept its version 1.0, Version 3.0 will be the perfect one.

  5. LaTtEX says:

    Rodel,

    Sana nga mafix sa Version 3.0!

    Thanks for the clarification on the disambiguity of payment/reserved. I think it’s a nice detail.

    BUT this should have been more clearly stated, and not relegated to fine print, as the disambiguity of paid/reserved causes confusion for passengers.

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