Pacific Sun should stop being indifferent to consumers

09/07/2010 16:02

Pacific Sun, Fiji’s only domestic airline, continues to use its dominant position to dictate domestic air travel and nothing is being done by the authorities to stop the airline from making inconsiderate decisions which affects the consumers. The reports in the media today on Pacific Sun passengers bound for Lakeba seeking help from police to sort out problems with their luggage is another example of the airline being indifferent to consumers needs. What is sad is that nothing is being done by the authorities to hold the domestic carrier responsible and compensate for consumer’s losses.

Council understands that the airline needs to have its aircrafts maintained but this should not affect services provided by the airline. Pacific Sun should take the cues from its parent company-Air Pacific. In 2009, Air Pacific hired aircraft when its own fleet went for servicing to ensure minimum disruption and not to lose customers to other airlines in a deregulated market. Unfortunately Pacific Sun being a monopoly did not consider the repercussions on its valuable customers. On the other hand consumers have no choice but to go through this frustration.

Hundreds of consumers are affected by this as it not only causes them huge frustrations but also loses in terms of time and money.  The Council sympathizes with Lakeba passengers as instead going straight to home they would have had to wait long at the airport for rest of their luggage to arrive, incurring unnecessary costs.

Last week passengers bound for Labasa were stranded at Nausori Airport. One passenger disgruntled passenger who had checked in at 7am called the Consumer Council at 2.45pm to express his anger at the airline’s attitude. More passengers were booked for the 8.30am than what Pacific Sun’s available aircraft could carry. The complainant said the airline instead only accommodated two groups of 10 to 12 passengers who were flown in the smaller aircraft. The remaining stranded passengers were given meal vouchers and some have been given accommodation. However, many have incurred costs as they were travelling to Labasa for work or business purposes.

It seems Pacific Sun is trying to save costs and just opting to remove or reschedule its services at its convenience, after all it is the only domestic carrier for the busy Labasa-Nausori-Nadi route. Why should consumers stop-over in Suva incurring extra accommodation and other related costs when they are enroute from Nadi to Labasa and vice-versa because Pacific Sun will a smaller use Twin Otter aircraft instead of the usual ATR?

It is Pacific Sun’s responsibility to provide consumers the services that it has promised and if for some reason it is unable to do so, then the airline should compensate passengers. This is again a very good example of how Pacific Sun is dictating the terms of domestic air travel because it has substantial market power. If there was competition in the market Pacific Sun would not have been able to make such decisions for the fear of losing customers to the competitor.

Pacific Sun is using its dominant position to dictate rules and policies favourable to the airline and consumers have no option but to follow or lose out travelling within Fiji.

From 2009 to date, the Council has received 25 complaints against Pacific Sun which include flight delays, unfair charges for extra baggage, unsafe conditions and lost luggage. Being a single domestic airline carrier has made Pacific Sun become complacent with the quality of its services which is deteriorating every day. What is more worrying is that Pacific Sun being indifferent to the consumer grievances. 

The Council calls on the authorities to investigate Pacific Sun’s services and bring about fairness in the industry to protect consumers.