MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The government on Monday released the "Air Passenger Bill of Rights", a measure which seeks to protect consumers from certain airline practices such as overbooking and "misleading" promo fares.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya and Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo on Monday signed the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 1 or the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.
It will take effect on December 21.
The Air Passenger Bill of Rights was crafted by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Department of Trade and Industry in response to the increasing number of complaints against airlines.
The order covers all Philippine-based carriers operating domestic and international flights, as well as foreign carriers operating flights from the Philippines.
Under the order, passengers affected by delayed or cancelled flights will receive compensation from the airline, such as free food, drinks and even hotel accommodations.
Flight cancellations, delays
In case of flight cancellation attributable to the airline, the passenger is entitled to the following rights:
(a) Be notified beforehand via public announcement, written/published notice and flight status update service (text);
(b) Be provided with the following, if he/she is already at the airport at the time of the announcement of the flight cancellation: sufficient refreshments or meals (e.g. snacks consisting of at least a bottle of water and a sandwich, or breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or a voucher for the same, as the case may be); hotel accommodation (conveniently accessible from the airport); transportation from the airport to the hotel, v.v.; free phone calls, text or emails, and first aid, if necessary; and
(c) Reimbursement of the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges, of the flight cancelled, or both in case the passenger decides not to fly;
(d) Be endorsed to another air carrier without paying any fare difference, at the option of the passenger, and provided that space permit such re-accommodation; or
(e) Rebook the ticket, without additional charge, to the next flight with available space, or, within 30 days, to a future trip within the period of validity of the ticket. However, for rebooking made over 30 days, fees and fare difference will paply.
In case the airline decides to cancel a flight at least 24 hours before departure, it will not be liable for any amenities except to notify the passenger, and to rebook or reimburse the passenger.
Passengers who are affected by flight delays or at least 3 hours, whether it is attributed to the airline or not, would be entitled to refreshments or meals; free phone calls, text or e-mails; first aid; and ticket rebooking or refund.
The order also addresses the airlines' practice of overbooking. "No passenger may be denied boarding without his/her consent," the order stated.
Any expense or inconvenience caused by overbooking to affected passengers must be borne by the airline:
- The airline shall determine the number of passengers in excess of the actual seat capacity of the aircraft;
- The carrier shall announce that the flight is overbooked, and that it is looking for volunteers willing to give up their seats in exchange for air carrier compensation.
- It shall provide the interested passengers or volunteers a list of amenities and offers, which they can choose from, which list of amenities shall always include the option to be given priority booking in the next flight with available space or to be endorsed to another air carrier upon payment of any fare difference, and provided that space and other circumstances permit such accommodation, at the option of the passenger, and/or a cash incentive.
At present, airlines are allowed to overbook 10% of its seats per flight but the order removed the limit.
The bill of rights also addresses passengers' complaints about lost, delayed or damaged luggage.
Airlines would now have to compensate passengers P2,000 for every 24 hours their baggage is missing. After 7 days, the baggage would be deemed lost.
No to misleading ads
The order also requires airlines to fully disclose restrictions on rebookability or refundability attached to certain promo fares.
Airlines are now required to disclose the following information on fare advertisements:
(a) Conditions and restrictions attached to the fare type;
(b) Refund and rebooking policies, if any;
(c) Baggage allowance policies;
(d) Government taxes and fuel surcharges;
(e) Other mandatory fees and charges;
(f) Contact details of the carrier (i.e. phone number, website, e-mail, etc.); and
(g) Other information necessary to apprise the passenger of the conditions and the full/total price of the ticket purchased.
For promo fares such as the popular "piso fares" or "zero fares", airlines would now be required to also include the following information:
(h) Number of seats offered on a per sector basis;
(i) The duration of the promo; and
(j) The CAB Approval No. of Fares.
"Consistent with the declared policy of the State to protect the interests of the consumers, which includes protection from misleading and fraudulent sales promotion practices, all sales promotion campaigns and activities of air carriers shall be carried out with honesty, transparency and fairness, and in accordance with the requirements of the Consumer Act of the Philippines, and its IRR," the order stated.
Airlines are now required to provide the DTI with a copy of its promo materials, in addition to securing approval from the CAB.
This year, there has been a growing number of complaints against airline companies, ranging from delayed flights to overbooking to misleading promo fare ads. This has prompted the DOTC and DTI to take a closer look at the airlines' practices and craft the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.