Published 27 August 2018, The Daily Tribune

For the past decade, Philippine airline industry has been booming. As you may be aware, travels have become more accessible and costs of flight much cheaper. Domestic and international passenger traffic in the Philippines has significantly grown based on the Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board data.

With this increased number of passengers travelling to and from the country, the number of complaints against airline carriers likewise increased. More frequently than not, passengers are beset with delayed or cancelled flights and/or lost or damaged baggage, or the more unfortunate, injuries or death. So what do we do in these cases? First off, we ought to know our basic rights as airline passengers.

In 2012, our government codified and strengthened our airline passengers’ rights. The Department of Transportation and Communication (now the Department of Transportation), in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry approved the Joint DOTC-DTI Administrative Order No. 1 Series of 2012, otherwise known as the “Air Passenger Bill of Rights”, which took effect on 21 December 2012.

There are three (3) major rights of passengers covered under said issuance, namely: (a) right to be provided with accurate information before purchase of the ticket; (b) right to receive the full value of the service purchased; and (c) right to compensation.

Right to be informed

The passenger is entitled to a full, fair and clear disclosure of all the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage before he purchases his ticket. Remember that upon purchase of your air ticket, you signify your acceptance of all the terms and conditions stated therein. Your first level of protection therefore is to know what these terms and conditions you are being subjected to – like policies on refund, rebooking and baggage allowance and check-in, among others.

The ticket or boarding pass should state either the complete terms and conditions of the contract of carriage, or that such terms are readily available in the air carrier’s website upon request. In case of online bookings, the consumer must be informed, at least twice, of such terms and conditions prior to final submission of his or her purchase order. In addition, passengers must be verbally apprised of such terms and conditions in English and Filipino, or in a language easily understood by them.

In view of the increasing airline promo fares, note that you also have the right against misleading and fraudulent sales promotion practices.

Right to receive full value of service purchased

One, air carriers cannot refuse to process your check-in, provided that you reach the designated check-in area at least an hour before your estimated time of departure (ETD). Check-in counters at international airports must be open two hours before the ETD, and for other airports, at least one hour before. There must be a priority lane for senior citizens, people with disabilities (PWDs), and people who need special assistance, and a special counter must be opened for a flight nearing its check-in deadline.

Two, passengers have the right to board the aircraft for the purpose of the flight, except when there is legal or other valid cause such as immigration issues, safety and security, health concerns and non-appearance at the boarding gate at the appointed time, among others.

While it is an accepted practice for air carriers to overbook flights, no passenger may be bumped off from the flight without his or her consent. The airline should look for volunteers willing to give up their seats and give them appropriate compensation package.

Right to compensation

In case of flight cancellations at least attributable to the carrier, the passenger has the following rights: (a) to be notified of the fact of cancellation; (b) be provided with sufficient refreshments, hotel accommodation, transportation from airport to the hotel, free phone calls, texts or e-mails and first-aid, if necessary; (c) be reimbursed of the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges; or (d) endorsed to another air carrier; or (e) rebooked to the next flight available without additional charge.

As to flight delays, if the flight is delayed at least three hours after ETD, whether or not it is attributable to the carrier, the passenger has the right to avail himself of refreshments or meals, free phone calls, text or emails, and first aid, if necessary, rebook or refund his or her ticket, or be endorsed to another carrier.

If the flight is delayed at least six hours after ETD, the passenger can consider the flight cancelled for the purpose of availing himself the rights and amenities provided for in case of actual cancellation. The passenger will receive additional compensation equivalent to at least the value of the sector delayed. The affected passenger can also board the flight if he or she has not opted to rebook and/or refund. And if the passenger encounters tarmac delay, a delay that occurs while passengers are already on board the aircraft, he or she can avail of sufficient food and beverage.

Finally¸ as to delayed, lost or damaged baggage, the passenger has the right to be informed of the fact of off-loading.  For every 24 hours of delay, the passenger shall receive P2,000 compensation. And if the baggage was not delivered within 24 hours from the arrival of the flight, the passenger will be refunded of checked baggage fees. If the baggage is lost or suffered any damage, relevant convention shall apply for international flights while for domestic flights, the passenger has the right to a maximum amount equivalent to half of the amount in the relevant convention (for international flights) in its peso equivalent.

For international flights, the Montreal Convention was ratified by the Senate in 2015, complementing, and to a certain extent, supplanting the Warsaw Convention. Notably, limitations of airline liabilities were increased under the Montreal Convention. This will be further discussed in my next column.

Keep informed to be empowered. In the meantime, have a safe flight!