One week and 5 flight cancellations later, we can’t get out of Batanes… what is going on Asian Spirit?

I’d be too happy to continue with my Baguio posts except that I can no longer mask the reality that we’ve been stranded in the paradise-island of Batanes for almost a week now. We are still lovestruck but now more dumbstruck at the prospect of starring in our own edition of Gilligan’s Island . We have the real world to go back to – Mr. Z already missed his international flight and I should be reporting back to work in less than 48 hours. Same goes for the rest of the passengers who have commitments to meet and families to go home to. Unfortunately, the travel brochures do not say there is “no way out” if ever you get stuck in Batanes. No way out by ship or by bus and you are literally at the mercy of the sole airline that flies from Manila to Basco, Asian Spirit.

I wish I can commend Asian Spirit for serving Philippine tourism by making flights to the country’s northernmost part. It now looks like they did so out of the desire to be a monopoly than serve the public. “Bad weather” seems to be the oft-repeated reason whenever this airline can’t ferry passengers to, and from Basco. There certainly wasn’t bad weather when they started canceling flights Thursday of last week just because management decided to limit their flights from five times a week to MWF, without sufficiently informing passengers they booked for a Th flight.

On Friday, an Asian Spirit aircraft was already hovering over the island before it decided not to land and fly back to Manila because of poor visibility. The weather cleared later during the day but it seems Asian Spirit is committed to flying at only one designated time of the day with their old, limited number of aircraft. If you miss their time frame, good luck to you because they are not going to refund your ticket or shoulder the additional expenses for board and lodging for the extended vacation you didn’t want in the first place (in our case, five days and who knows how many more!.) All in the name of “bad weather.”

This experience has been an eye-opener actually. It is not just transport companies like Asian Spirit but the government or the duly-elected/appointed Batanes representatives which have been remiss in crafting and implementing a clear-cut tourism master plan for what is easily one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines.

Something must be wrong when they say you can only visit Batanes two months of the year, or you get stranded otherwise.

Indeed, something must be blatantly wrong when there are no alternative means of transport to reach and leave the island, especially one that would provide inexpensive means to encourage more tourists to come. For this extended tour, our expenses are now nearing $600 per person which would already have bought us a few nights stay at a luxurious villa in Krabi. Heck, even Luang Prabang seems nearer to civilization (and accessible to decent means of transport.)

Whatever happened to the nautical superhighway or the Batanes train express (my own invention)… whatever happened to all that? Such a pity that the beautiful pictures I have taken of Batanes’ incomparable land mass and its vast seas will never justify the fact that the province suffers from neglect and indifference. And innocent tourists like us now have to bear the burden.

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30 thoughts on “One week and 5 flight cancellations later, we can’t get out of Batanes… what is going on Asian Spirit?

  1. Yep, it’s true. I’m starting to get texts from work, wondering when I’ll return – we’re shorthanded as it is. The best part is that we’re considering a chartered flight. Wow.

    Asian Spirit seems to have put the cart before the horse – I would really like to find out what capacity Basco has for all-weather flight support, and Asian Spirit’s own capabilities in that regard, and proficiency. If you can’t make the flight reliably, then don’t schedule them. Aeroflot would be more reliable, at this point. Maybe even Iraq Airlines (don’t ask!) Most of all, I miss ATMs :(

  2. ajay says:

    “If you can’t make the flight reliably, then don’t schedule them.” Then why is the Batanes Romantic Package prominently displayed on the Asian Spirit website My Dear Mr. Z? It’s THAT poster which made you want to go to Batanes in the first place. Too bad it’s false advertising. They didn’t tell us the whole frickin’ fine print!

  3. what about sea travel? is there really no other option? i hope you get out of there soon, and that you get some sort of compensation at least from asian spirit!

  4. ajay says:

    Believe it or not, no way out by sea Ruth..or even by land. We can’t even make the connecting flight to Tuguegarao, as we speak.

  5. ajay,

    good luck to you and mr.Z and all the other pax of Asian Spirit.

    my cousin was stranded there for a week,
    but that was in 1992!!! you’d think the DOT or the airlines or the LGUs would have had some emergency evacuation options by now.

    you really ought to go to Rep. Butch Abad when you get back to Manila, and give him a piece of your mind.

    or if you’re still stranded, go to his house in Batanes, i heard he’s got a nice home theater and satellite TV!

  6. Aguy, that sucks. What’s their policy regarding delays and cancellation? Wouldn’t they reimburse some of your expenses there, or hindi siya counted kasi it’s because of the incliment weather?

    Anyway, I hope you get back to Manila soon. Miss ka na namin! :D

  7. Oh what a bummer… When things get out of hand like this I say do your best to make the most of the moment. Try to enjoy whatever there is to enjoy.

    No matter what happens to us the meaning of it is ours.

    Just trying to cheer you up.=)

  8. ajay says:

    Karla, :(

    Spanx, thanks for the help. What happened in 1992 is still true up to now..we are such turtles! Anyway, already visited the lovely house of the Abads. It’s just that we’re in no mood for any satellite TV right now.Just get us outta here :P

    Noemi, yes…. glad you had fun in Bora.

    Bert..apparently, some locals can leave the island, even if they have to fly.

    Nina..give me a food trip anytime, not a cancelled trip. Though a travel writer like you should go here at least once in your lifetime.

    Ruy, thanks for the positive thought. That’s true.We are still trying to make som sense (and joy) out of the situation.

    Mari, yes… i did say they are a monopoly.

    Dyanie, totoo yan :P makes the experience better..i mean bearable, memorable, whatev. :D

  9. I agree. You should be compensated for your expenses there and lost work elsewhere. Are you still there as I write this? I hope not.

  10. grabe naman yang experience mo…
    i hope Asian Spirit will reimburse all the expenses you incurred while your still there.

    sana maka balik ka na ng manila. have a safe trip ajay…

  11. pascal says:

    Sorry you guys got stranded… Well I heard before that the best time to visit Batanes is February and March, during those months weather is pretty reliable and a lot less flights get cancelled…

  12. Thanks to everyone, you’ve been very supportive during our six-day internet telethon from Basco ;) Teh Ajay and I made it to Manila this a.m. and are already relishing hot running water, wireless interwebs, and the prospects of restaurants we haven’t eaten at five days straight! Take care, all.

    - Mr. Z.

  13. I would still loooove to go to Batanes, even if I have to do it all by myself!

    Here’s hoping Cebu Pacific will fly Batanes in the near future!

    Glad you made it back safe and sound :)

  14. ajay says:

    Thank you friends. Back to the real world, for a week now!

    Yeah Vina, I wish there was another airline there. Just wait for the rest of my pictures and you’ll surely want to go, go, go!!! :D

  15. PAL has become known as “Philippines Always Late” and to be avoided if you have a corresponding flight. Maybe Asian Spirit cancels if they can’t fill the flight and just give any excuse for cancellation. They trying to save on gas.

  16. Scary! I love the place but being stranded and waiting everyday for flights like that can be frustrating.

    Having worked for Asian Spirit before in their inflight magazine, I’m no stranger in their cancellations. Even on an assignment once we were stranded for like days in Tuguegarao and Asian Spirit refuse to fly due to their strict policy of “rainfall radius gauge”. Funny another airline was flying there and we came back to manila using Air Philippines instead.

    Too bad Pacific Air no longer serves Batanes from Laoag. That’s what we took before and their tiny 8-seater plane seems to be more reliable than the large ones from Asian Spirit.

  17. That is interesting Ferdz. At least Asian Spirit is no longer flying to Tuguegarao…. only Air Philippines does. Your statement seems to indicate that Asian Spirit seems to be this way which may not be to the advantage of their long term business strategy, especially with the impression they give to disgruntled customers.

  18. Mike says:

    Asian Spirit’s planes have maximum tolerance of 20 knots of wind gustiness. During the time when the company cancelled flights supposedly “due to weather”, the winds in Basco were averaging 22 knots, and gusts were reaching 28 knots. Clear weather, yes. But safe weather? Hardly.

    And oh, the incumbent Congressman of the area is Cong Diasnes, not Butch Abad

    I thought the whole point of going to Batanes is to “unplug” from technology? Not spend half a week craving for it.

  19. Hello, Mike. Admittedly, the weather was gusty at times during our
    stay, but this information only comes to us now, two and a half weeks
    after that first cancellation for us? Information from Asian Spirit
    was sparse, at best, and typically, visibility was cited as the major
    issue involved, due to low cloud cover. The whole point of going to
    Batanes was to visit a beautiful, largely unspoiled, piece of the
    Philippines. I knew that Ajay had missed an earlier opportunity to
    visit Batanes, and wanted to “make it up” to her. In truth, I thought
    it would be nice to visit a spot in the Philippines she hadn’t already
    seen, and blogged exhaustively about ;-)

    We didn’t spend a week craving technology – we spent a week craving
    information, particularly from Asian Spirit. We spent quite a bit of
    time at SmartLink, researching every possible means of departing
    Batanes, as I rescheduled my return flights to the Middle East THREE
    TIMES in the six “free” days we enjoyed in Basco. Kudos to Emirates
    for their patience.
    I relished every day I spent with Ajay in Basco – this whole
    relationship has been “stealing time” for us, and I have no regrets.
    Still, it would have been nice to spend a few of those six days with
    her children, who missed their Mother badly. Most ten-year old
    children don’t have ATM cards, so it became a near-daily struggle
    keeping food on the table for her three children and their Nanny,
    bearable only thanks to the understanding of her friends on the
    Mainland.
    I firmly believe that if weather cancellations are that commonplace,
    then Asian Spirit shouldn’t book flights it can’t reliably make.
    Perhaps they should change that ad from “Fall in Love in Batanes” to
    “Emigrate to Batanes”. ‘Nuff said.

  20. m says:

    hi! my sis and her hubby were with the same group that got stranded in batanes. like ajay and mr z they went there with high hopes of experiencing unspoiled beauty and nature. instead, asian spirit gave them the worst nightmare ever. its true, there was hardly an information as to when they can leave the place, and compensation was never offered. however, my sis and her hubby were lucky (?!) to get the 1st night (thurs) charged to the airlines, simply because the cancellation was due to “operations concern”. but this is after much haggling with vincent, the super duper inefficient asian spirit representative… i know this was availed of by just a few insistent passengers, and not all. after that, the standard reply for all the 5 to 6 flight cancellations was due to weather. this way, they avoided compensations. air philippines had novice pilots, out-dated aircrafts. no one should ever plan to visit batanes with asian spirit still being the one and only option to go there.

  21. Good to hear about your sister’s related experience M. I wouldn’t entirely qualify the experience as a nightmare but it was indeed mental torture NOT to know at all when we will fly out of there, after repeated cancellations. The Asian Spirit publicist tried to assure me of some recompensation, I don’t know what happened with that since I haven’t heard from them since. The manager of Batanes Seaside did the better thing of writing off our meals for the duration of the days we extended… their action was certainly more gallant than Asian Spirit’s. You hit the nail on the head with this statement: “No one should ever plan to visit Batanes with Asian Spirit still being the one and only option to go there.” Maybe I should put this on my Batanes travel guide???

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