ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Zest fiasco turns Korean tourists off budget carriers
Publication Date : 21-08-2013
It has been a disastrous weekend for tourists flying with Zest Airways, a low-cost carrier servicing flights in and out of the Philippines that received a suspension order from the Philippine aviation authorities due to safety violations.
ZestAir has had several problems since July 22 that alarmed the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and pushed other officials to take precautionary measures.
The airline resumed operations as of Tuesday.
Occasional hydraulic system defects, parts missing from the fuel link equipment and other incidences were only some of the concerns that resulted in a flight delay or cancellation, according to the aviation authority.
Others include the airline attempting to fuel an aircraft with passengers on board, an act that goes against flight safety regulations. It also violated international aviation laws that prohibit pilots from flying more than 100 hours per month or 1,000 hours in one year to prevent potential accidents that may happen because of pilot fatigue.
Reports showed that it is common practice for pilots of Zest Airways to fly beyond these limited hours.
Due to the suspension order, tourists were subsequently left stranded or struggled to reshuffle their itineraries.
“It’s quite common for these airliners to be irresponsible because they have to make ends meet on a tight budget,” said an executive at one of Korea’s major airlines, who declined to be named.
In the past, problems were mostly with refunds and unreliable flight schedules, or the lack of alternative flights.
Currently about 1,000 Korean passengers are reported to be grounded in the Philippines, many stuck at the airport and unable to secure accommodations on short notice and high demand.
Many who were to depart or arrive on Saturday or Sunday were upset that notifications of flight cancellations were not given to them in advance regardless of the fact that Zest Airway’s Airline Operator’s Certificate had been suspended since August 16.
Efforts by other airlines, such as the Philippines Airlines and its sister company PAL Express, to assist ZestAir by accommodating the passengers affected by this abrupt suspension, are not sufficient to accommodate all the passengers who need to book a flight out of the country.
Asiana Airlines, Jin Air and several other airlines have commenced measures since Tuesday to provide seven planes to transport the stranded passengers back to Korea.
Passengers expressed their disapproval of not only ZestAir’s lack of emergency measures and swift responses, but also their brief and insufficient apology posted on the airline’s website.