When news came out that Zest Air was grounded by the Civil Aviation Authorities of the Philippines (CAAP) due to safety violations, I was not surprised. I’ve never really trusted Zest Air. I’ve head too much stories of its frequent flight delays and old plans. Or maybe it’s the orange and green colors or its tag-line of “Asia’s Most Refreshing Airline.” Or maybe because it was the former Asian Spirit. You know– “You fly as an Asian and you land as a spirit.”
The first-time I took the airline was on a trip to Boracay. One of it’s MA60 planes had just over-shot the runway and was still parked at the Caticlan airport. The trip was short and uneventful and the plane was brand new (it being made in China got me worried, though). I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally came back from the trip. The second time was much recent. Just last May on a flight of Kota Kinabalu. Air Asia had just inked a partnership with Zest Air so I was hoping that it would bring the same kind of efficiency I had enjoyed with Air Asia. Not so. My departure and arrival experience at its tiny terminal it shared with the Terminal 4 (the old domestic terminal) was enough for me to declare “Never again!” It was hot, crowded, and chaotic. The plane was also old (think of rusty seats and torn upholstery). I had booked the flight via Air Asia and at that moment, on flight, I was thinking how could Air Asia allow its brand to be co-branded with this not-so-refreshing airline.
With Zest Air’s grounding, not a few were unhappy with their skewed-up plans. Some of my friends opted to just refund their cancelled flights. I would. The airlines managed to book others with other airlines, which was good, as they would have gotten better service and better planes.
This afternoon, I read online that the suspension has been lifted after the airline finally complied with the measures. Yup, they’re up on the air again.
Would I fly? NO! I just hope that this being the Philippines, no quick buck and under-the-table transaction was made just so the airline which claimed to be losing Php 70m a day due to its grounding, could fly again and be back on business. It will be remembered that reports say that the Piper Seneca plan that flew the late Sec. Robredo on his ill-fated flight had not passed safety standards and the only reason it was operational was somebody had falsified some documents. For the sake of people’s lives, I just hoped that Zest Air is truly safe. After all, some its violations are chilling: failure to check aircraft log, flight manifest, and weather; failure to present an aircraft mechanic license during ramp inspection; excessive flight time duty of pilots (source: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/caap-restores-airworthy-stamp-zestair-planes-p-p-093318891.html). To someone like me who flies frequently, this is a cause of worry. Most glaring of all is that if not for the CAAP inspection, would the safety violations would have gone on and on until a plane crash occurs? By the way, how often does the CAAP does it auditing? I hope, regularly.
Yeah, so Zest Air is up on the air. I’m not flying it. It’s enough that it got caught with its pants down so it was forced to get an accountability officer, not refuel while passengers are on the aircraft, among other things. I can live with flight delays and cancellations but I cannot live with safety violations. Any airline company who willfully violates safety procedures and only complies because it got caught and was penalized, does not deserve any life-loving flier.
To begin with, they were not safe at all. And that, fellow passengers, is definitely not refreshing,