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Solon pushes broader air passengers’ rights

Solon pushes broader air passengers’ rights

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Solon pushes broader air passengers’ rights

Topic |  
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Relampagos
Relampagos

Delayed flights, flight overbooking, incompetent airport crews, insensitive flight attendants, lost or damaged baggage, passenger complaints have alarmed Rep. Rene Relampagos, chairman of House committee on tourism.

He said these need immediate corrections as it has become a commonplace in the Philippines’ air travel service.

He told The Chronicle that these situations have no place in a country which look at tourism as one of its rapid growing and major economic factors.

The lawmaker has underscored the need to ensure broader rights for all airline passengers in the country, citing the lack of clear procedure and guidelines in rebooking or cancelling flights and refunding tickets, often leading to passenger complaints. To date, the existing guideline on the matter is Department of Transportation and Communications – Department of Trade and Industry (DOTC-DTI) Administrative Order No. 1, more commonly known as the “Air Passengers Bill of Rights.”

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The House of Representatives recently approved House Bill (HB) 6191 or the Airline Passengers Bill of Rights which seeks to guarantee air passengers a fair deal in terms of better information and assistance, compensation and benefits. It contains a “full disclosure” provision which compels air carriers to disclose to their passengers both in print and verbally the conditions and restrictions of their flight tickets such as the number of seats available for passengers for promotional fares, rebooking policies, government taxes and surcharges, etc.

Relampagos explained that the main aspect of the measure is the “Lack of transparency and clarity” of terms and conditions in air carriers’ contract conditions–purchasing of non-refundable, non-reroutable or non-endorsable tickets which, if unused, are forfeited; prevalence of delayed airline refunds brought about by unclear rules and procedures; and deduction of service fees on amounts refunded–create a significant information gap which prevents passengers from making informed decisions.

“They only realize the implications of what they have agreed to when disputes arise,” Relampagos added, citing how the air carrier’s conditions are printed in very fine print. According to reports, the rise in passenger traffic due to the availability of promo fares — from about five million in the mid 1990s to 30 million in 2014 — has led to the spate of passenger complaints due to un-refundable tickets, hidden charges and other problems associated with flight cancellation or rebooking.

Said measure also requires airlines to reimburse 75 percent of the fare as long as the passenger cancels the flight at least 24 hours before departure and provide refreshments for a two-hour delay, free phone or internet access and hotel for canceled flights, among others.

Some of the rights outlined in the bill are those pertaining to offloaded baggage which requires air carriers to inform passengers immediately regarding the situation and ensure that the offloaded baggage is delivered to the passenger within an hour from the time the flight carrying the baggage arrives at the passenger’s destination. The passenger is also entitled to a compensation of P2,000 for every 24-hour delayed baggage delivery.

Meanwhile, if the passenger arrives in the check-in counter at least an hour before the flight departure, he/she must not be considered late and the carrier is obliged to make sure the passenger is checked in within the deadline. In case of cancelled flights, passengers must be notified beforehand via public announcement or written notice such as through SMS. They also have the right to be reimbursed for the full value of the fare if the flight has been cancelled due to force majeure.

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Said measure also seeks to provide 20-percent discount on airfares to senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and students.

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“This piece of legislation paves the way for a better public perception of our airline service industry in general. More importantly, it will set clear a specific guidelines for passengers’ rights enhance consumer rights,” Relampagos said, hoping that a counterpart bill will be filed in the Senate so that the measure would be enacted immediately.

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