Draft Air Passenger Bill of Rights out

By Lenie Lectura, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jul 04 2012 06:56 AM | Updated as of Jul 05 2012 01:56 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The government, apparently realizing the need to protect passengers’ rights and the business interest of local airlines, on Tuesday released a copy of draft Administrative Order 1, a joint output of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Civil Aeronautics Board (Cab).

“There is a need to infuse a certain measure of balance, fairness and reasonableness between the precarious position of a passenger vis-à-vis the vast resources at the disposal of the airline, especially in a liberalized and highly competitive aviation environment, which, if unfettered can lead to unsound business policies and practices of airlines that are prejudicial to the rights and interests of the passengers,” the 13-page draft order stated.

Overbooking will still be allowed, the draft order implied. The order, however, restricted unilateral bumping off of affected passengers.

When the number of passengers exceeds seat capacity of the aircraft, the airline should announce that the flight is overbooked? and that it is looking for volunteers willing to give up their seats ?in exchange for airline compensation.

Volunteers will be provided with a lists of amenities and offers from which they can choose, which shall always include priority booking in the next available flight and/or cash incentive.

“In case the number of volunteers is not enough to resolve the overbooking, the airline shall increase the compensation package by certain degrees or by adding more amenities until the required number of volunteers is met,” the draft order said.

Overbooking and the settling of compensation for passengers should not be used as an excuse for undue delay of the scheduled flight, the order added.

If and when the seats of a certain aircraft are insufficient to accommodate passengers with confirmed booking for reasons such as, but not limited to, the government requisition of space, as well as downgrading of the aircraft for safety or unforeseen operational reasons, the carrier shall ask for volunteers as well, it said.

In cases where a passenger is bumped off as a result of the carrier’s failure to provide the passenger with a confirmed reserved seat, according to the draft order, the passengers shall have priority booking for the next available flight using the same ticket and have the same services originally opted and paid for. If the passenger does not receive these services on the subsequent flight or was required to pay a second time, the carrier must refund these payments to the passenger.

In cases of flight cancellations, affected passengers must be provided with meals; hotel accommodation; transportation from the airport to the hotel and vice versa; free phone calls, text messages or e-mails; and first aid, if necessary. The carrier must also reimburse the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges. This also applies when the passenger opts not to use the ticket.

Also, the carrier is obligated to rebook the ticket to the next available flight or to another trip in the future without additional charge. Endorsement to another carrier without paying for fare difference at the option of the passenger should also be exercised.

In case the carrier cancels the flight because of force majeure, safety and or security reasons, a passenger shall have the right to rebook the ticket subject to the payment of the fare difference, if any, and reasonable administrative costs. Endorsement to another airline upon payment of any fare difference will also apply.

When a flight is delayed for two hours, whether such is attributable to the carrier, the passenger will have the right to be provided with meals; and free phone calls, text messages or e-mails. When the flight is delayed for four hours, the passenger has the right to cancel his reservation, rebook or refund the ticket or be endorsed to another carrier.

In addition to the passengers’ rights mentioned, additional compensation equivalent to the value of the sector not flown and automatic rebooking must be provided for flights that were delayed for at least six hours.

Compensation for loss, damage and delay of baggage is pegged at $20 per kilo for check-in baggage and $400 for hand-carried baggage for international flights. For domestic flights, the equivalent amount in pesos shall apply.

In case a checked-in baggage has been off-loaded, it is the responsibility of the carrier to inform the passenger. The off-loaded baggage should be carried in the next available flight and delivered to the passenger, who should be compensated P1,000 for every two days of late delivery.

Complaint desks will be put up inside the airport, the carrier and the Civil Aeronautics Board.

The government reminded all airlines on full and clear disclosure of terms and conditions of the contract of carriage before the passenger pays for the ticket.

A public hearing is set this Friday to hear views of industry stakeholders.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II earlier said the Air Passenger Bill of Rights would be completed within the month.