Philippine Air passenger Bill of Rights - Passengers Must Know Their Rights

A very much welcome gift this New Year Season is the Air Passenger Bill of Rights which took effect of December 22, 2012, thanks to the Joint Administrative Order No. 1 between the Department of Transportation and Communication and the Department of Trade and Industry.

As provided for by the Joint Administrative Order, the Bill of Rights for Air Passengers recognizes the passenger’s right to be provided with accurate information; the right to receive full value of the service purchased through tickets; the right to compensation in cases of delay, cancellation, and delayed, lost or damaged baggage.

The Bill of Rights Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations clearly outlines the responsibilities of carriers, both local and international, with regard to passengers, denial of boarding, flight delay, flight cancellation, off-loading of baggage, overbooking, advertisement of promotional and regular fares, re-fundability and re-bookability of fares, death and bodily injury, and express lane for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

"There is a need to infuse a certain measure of balance, fairness and reasonableness between the precarious position of passengers vis-a-vis the vast resources at the disposal of the air carrier, especially in a liberalized and highly competitive aviation environment, which, if unfettered can lead to unsound business policies and practices of air carriers that are prejudicial to the rights and interests of the passengers," the Administrative Order No.1 states.

Among others, these are the more significant provisions which everyone must know as airline passenger:

On offloaded baggage, if the passenger’s checked-in baggage were offloaded from the flight he or she is in due to "operational, safety, or security reasons," the airline has to inform him or her ASAP, give him or her a report, and ensure that the passenger’s offloaded baggage is carried in the next flight with available space. This is provided for in Section 14 Chapter IV of the Air Passengers Bill of Rights as posted on the DOTC website.

The airline should deliver the baggage to the passenger within an hour from the time the flight carrying his or her baggage arrives at the destination. The airline must pay the passenger P2,000 for every 24 hours that his or her baggage is delayed. A fraction of a day shall be considered as one day.

For overbooked flights, an airline is allowed to overbook a flight, an industry practice of selling more seats than the aircraft has, based on demand-supply for a specific flight, as long as the passengers who are bumped off do so voluntarily.

Section 10.1.c provides that if a passenger volunteers to choose a different flight, the airline will offer him or her compensation in the form of amenities or cash incentives. If the number of volunteers is not enough to resolve the overbooking, the airline is mandated to increase the compensation package by adding more services until the required number of volunteers is met.

On airline promotions, Section 5 directs all airlines to outline the limitations and restrictions in both English and Filipino. When advertising promotions, along with disclosing refund and rebooking policies, baggage allowance policies, government taxes and surcharges, other mandatory fees and charges, the airlines also have to include the number of seats offered.

On check-in, if the passenger arrives within the designated check-in area at least one hour before the flight's published time of departure, he or she will not be considered late and the carrier is obliged to make sure passengers are checked in within the deadline. This is stated in Section 9.1 of the JAO.

On flight cancellation, Section 11 Chapter IV provides that if a passenger’s flight is cancelled, he or she has to be notified beforehand via public announcement or written notice such as through a text message. If an air carrier cancels the flight because of force majeure, safety or security reasons the passenger shall have the right to be reimbursed for the full value of the fare.

Moreover, in the case of delayed departures, Section 12 of the same Chapter provides that airlines are required to provide free food, drinks, Internet access, phone use and, in extreme circumstances, hotel lodging until the flight departs. The flight is considered cancelled if it is delayed at least 6 hours after the original departure time. The passenger has the right to be compensated accordingly.

The JAO was signed by Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo on December 10, 2012. (Erlinda Olivia P. Tiu/PIA-8)

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