Gov't wants to ban overbooking of flights during peak season

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2015 12:35 PM | Updated as of Apr 15 2015 02:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The government wants to ban overbooking of domestic flights during peak seasons.

This is part of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) proposals to improve provisions of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights (APBR), following the chaos caused by overbooked flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 3 last December.

The DOTC also wants to cap overbooking of flights during non-peak seasons to 10 percent.

"While overbooking is an internationally-accepted practice, there should be a limit so as to protect the interests of passengers. We see no reason to allow overbooking of domestic flights during peak seasons because there is a foreseeable surge in the demand for seats, so most flights are full anyway,” said DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal.

Airlines are currently allowed to overbook flights by 10 percent to compensate for "no-shows."

Meanwhile, Sagcal said the DOTC sees further improvements for the APBR, which is currently being reviewed by the CAB.

"For example, we still see cases of passengers being denied boarding despite having valid tickets – something that should be dealt with more firmly," he said.

Other proposed changes to the APBR are:

Shortening the period before a delay becomes compensable from 3 hours to 2 hours;
Banning overbooking of domestic flights during peak seasons;
Limiting overbooking during off-peak seasons to 10%, in accordance with global practice;
Fixing a minimum compensation for any passenger who is denied boarding due to overbooking; and
Tightening up rules on flight delays and cancellations.

CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla said the proposed changes would force airlines to reduce flight delays and stick to their approved schedules.

He also noted the lack of a minimum compensation in cases where boarding is denied has usually led to a stalemate in negotiations between airlines and their passengers when complaints are filed at the CAB.

The DOTC and CAB hope to implement these amendments to the APBR by the fourth quarter, before the peak All Saints’ Day weekend and the Christmas season.

Local airlines' "overbooking" policies came into question during the peak holiday season last December 24-26, 2014. Cebu Pacific passengers complained of being bumped off flights due to overbooking, as well as experienced long lines, delays and cancelled flights.

While the budget airline blamed the incident to a mix of bad weather, absenteeism of ground personnel, and air traffic congestion, it also admitted that it may have also been a result of overbooking.

However, Cebu Pacific stressed that “overbooking is an internationally accepted aviation practice to have some buffer," and it only overbooked flights by 1 to 2 percent.

The CAB penalized Cebu Pacific with a P52 million fine because of the incident.