Refund or flight transfer for Zest Air passengers

Judith Balea
Passengers affected by regulators' move to ground the operations of budget carrier Zest Air are getting a refund or being rebooked on other airlines

GROUNDED. CAAP suspends Zest Air's permit to fly due to safety breaches. Photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Passengers affected by regulators’ move to ground the operations of budget carrier Zest Air are getting a refund or being rebooked on other airlines.

Zest Air director Joy Caneba told Rappler all of the carriers over 7,000 passengers daily are being offered full refunds or flight transfers.

“We started with the 7,614 passengers booked today,” she said.

Zest Air also struck arrangements with other carriers Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and PAL Express for special flights.

“For some routes, we requested other airlines to mount special flights for us, we transfer a whole flight instead of each passenger,” Caneba said. Special flights will be mounted to cover Zest Air’s Cebu, Tacloban and Tagbilaran services Saturday until Monday.

“After that, we’ll negotiate with them again.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) suspended Zest Air’s license to fly Friday, August 16, over safety concerns.

Zest Air, which decried the move, is mostly concerned about the inconvenience it caused its passengers.

“The suspension order took affect immediately upon receipt. There was no chance to reply at all. We were caught by surprise,” said Caneba.

“It did not take into account the inconvenience it would cause the riding public,” she added.

CAAP deputy general John Andrews said they regret that the travel plans of passengers have been affected, but noted that safety is priority.

“We have requested other airlines for assistance. They immediately responded. The passenger situation should normalize very shortly,” he told Rappler in a text message.

Zest Air is the country’s second-smallest airline in terms of passengers flown. The CDE market segments account for 80% of its passenger base, according to Caneba.

Aircraft ‘safe’

Zest Air insisted in a statement Saturday that its 11 aircraft are “safe and airworthy.”

It said CAAP’s findings have been appropriately addressed and they do not merit grounding of its operations.

CAAP informed Zest Air in a letter Friday it suspended its Air Operator Certificate for a “series of serious deviations and infractions” of aviation rules and standards.

CAAP said Zest Air violated, among others, the rule requiring airlines to have an “accountable manager” who will ensure operations are financed and carried out safely.

Zest Air insisted it has an accountable manager and it is no less than its chairman and owner Alfredo Yao.

CAAP placed Zest Air under heightened surveillance early August.

Zest Air’s domestic destinations include Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, and Tagbilaran. Its overseas destinations are Shanghai, Jinjiang, Incheon, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.

The carrier has a fleet of 10 Airbus A320s and one A319 operating out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as well as hubs in Kalibo and Cebu. –