Hello there, Wandering Filipino Senior Citizens (SCs)! I am sure you have been an air passenger but do you really know your rights as such? Read on!
The Department of Transportation and Communication1, with the Department of Trade and Industry2 (DTI), jointly made a Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations, implemented since 2012. See www.tourism.gov.ph
It is important to remember that your airline ticket is your contract of carriage with an air carrier so the latter is “obliged to transport you by air safely, efficiently and conveniently along a stipulated route at a given date and time, subject to certain conditions and/or restrictions.”
On the other hand, you, as a passenger, decide to buy that airline ticket and it binds you to “all the conditions and/or restrictions attached to that ticket on an all-or-nothing basis, without any say, whatsoever, with regard to the reasonableness of the individual conditions and restrictions attached to that ticket.”
So, read all texts especially the small, fine prints in your airline ticket and do not be afraid to ask the ticketing office or your travel agent. Do not forget to wear your glasses when reading (admit it, you sometimes forget where you placed it and are always tempted to simply press “I agree” in online options or sign your name just to get over that phase of your booking) … and use a magnifying glass or enlarge text fonts in your screen for online bookings, if need be!
There are 12 rights of air passengers, based on the Philippine Air Passenger Bill of Rights:
A. The Right to be Provided with Accurate Information Before Purchase
- The right to full, fair, and clear disclosure of the service offered and all the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage – The disclosure includes: documents to be presented at check-in, provisions on check-in deadlines, refund and rebooking policies, and procedures and responsibility for delayed and/or cancelled flights. The terms and conditions may include claim-filing deadlines as well as liability limitations and other crucial conditions. These must be printed and/or published as well as verbally explained to the air passenger in a language easily understood, especially the ff. terms: baggage allowance, check-in policies, rebooking, and refunding.
- The right to clear and non-misleading advertisements of, and important reminders regarding, fares in any medium – The following should be disclosed in not less than 1/3 the size of the advertisement: baggage allowance policies; conditions and restrictions attached to the (regular or promotional) fare type; contact details of the air carrier; government taxes and fuel surcharges; refund and rebooking policies; other information necessary to apprise the passenger of the conditions and the full/total price of the ticket purchased; and, other mandatory fees and charges. Promotional fares must also disclose the aforementioned along with the: CAB3 Approval No. of Fares; duration of the promo; and, the number of seats offered on a per sector basis. A copy of the above must be attached to, or printed on, the airline ticket in English and Filipino.
- The right against 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 Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). The air carrier shall provide to DTI2 a copy of its promotional materials for post audit, not later than the publication, release, or launch date, whichever is earlier.
B. The Right to Receive the Full Value of the Service Purchased
4. The right to transportation and baggage conveyance – Every passenger is entitled to transportation, baggage conveyance and ancillary services, in accordance with the terms and conditions of contract of carriage with the air carrier. If the air carrier is negligent, the air passenger shall be compensated or be entitled to alternative arrangements which are acceptable to the passenger as provided by this Bill of Rights.
5. The right to be processed for check-in – An air passenger holding a confirmed ticket, whether promotional or regular, with complete documentary requirements and have complied with the check-in procedures, shall be processed accordingly at the check-in counter within the check-in deadline. The airline shall clearly designate the boundaries of its assigned check-in area/s or counter/s.
A passenger within the air carrier’s cordoned or other designated check-in area, at least one hour before the published ETD4 shall not be considered late or a no-show, and shall not be denied check-in.
A late passenger, who came after the aforementioned period, shall be denied check-in and directed to a standby or rebooking counter for proper processing. Disputes shall be resolved by the air carrier on-site.
- The right to sufficient processing time – Passengers shall be given enough time before the published ETD4 within which to go through the check-in and final security processes.
Air carriers operating in international airports and other airports designated by the DOTC1 shall open their check-in counters at least two hours before the ETD. A separate dedicated counter for a flight nearing check-in deadline shall be open to facilitate check-in of passengers at least one hour before the published ETD.
In other airports, they shall open check-in counters at least one hour before the ETD5.
For senior citizens, PWDs5 (who should declare his/her need for special assistance or handling upon booking a flight), and their companions, an air carrier shall: (1) designate at least one check-in counter; and, (2) coordinate with the appropriate authorities for the use of proper airport equipment, entryways and/or aerobridges, when available, to facilitate transactions, movement, boarding and/or disembarkation of such people at the airport, duly informed of additional costs, if applicable.
- The right to board the aircraft for the purpose of flight – A passenger checked-in for a particular flight has the right to board the aircraft for the purpose of flight, except when there is legal or other valid cause (e.g., immigration issues, health concerns, safety and security, non-appearance at the boarding gate at the appointed boarding time, CAB3-endorsed government requisition of space6).
Re overbooking, the air carrier shall: (1) determine the number of passengers in excess of the actual seat capacity of the aircraft; (2) announce that the flight is overbooked and are looking for volunteers willing to give up their seats in exchange for air carrier compensation; (3) provide interested passengers or volunteers a list of amenities and offers (e.g., cash incentive; priority booking in the next flight with available space; endorsement to another air carrier upon payment of any fare difference); and, (4) increase the compensation package be certain degrees or by adding more amenities/services, until the required number of volunteers is met.
Bottomline: (1) the settlement of such compensation for passengers shall not be an excuse for the undue delay of the flight’s ETD; (2) the compensation, if accepted by the passenger, shall constitute liquidated damages for all damages incurred by the passenger as a result of the air carrier’s failure to provide the passenger with a confirmed reserved seat.
C. The Right to Compensation and Amenities
8. The right to compensation and amenities in case of cancellation of flight – In case of flight cancellations:
- attributable to the air carrier, a passenger: (1) shall have the right to be notified beforehand via public announcement, written/published notice and flight status update service (text); (2) when already in the airport at the time of the announcement of the flight cancellation shall be provided sufficient refreshments or meals (e.g., snacks – at least a sandwich and a bottle of water; 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 and v.v.; free phone calls, text or emails; and, first aid, if necessary; and (3) three options: (a) reimbursement of the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges, of the sector cancelled, or both/all sectors, in case the passenger decides not to fly the ticket or all the routes/sectors; (b) be endorsed to another air carrier without paying any fare difference, at the option of the passenger, and provided that space and other circumstances permit such re-accommodation; or (c) 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. For rebooking made in excess of the aforementioned 30 days for a trip likewise within the validity of the ticket, fees, and/or fare difference shall apply.
In case the air carrier cancels a flight at least 24 hours before the ETD4, it shall not be liable for the foregoing amenities, except, it shall be obliged to notify the passenger, and, in accordance with the preceding provisions, to rebook or reimburse the passenger, at the option of the latter.
- by force majeure, safety and/or security reasons, as certified by the CAB3 of the Philippines, a passenger shall have the right to be reimbursed for the full value of the fare.
The above provisions shall be the minimum entitlement of a passenger in case of cancellation, and shall not prohibit the air carrier from granting more favorable conditions or recourses, as it may deem appropriate.
Remember, a confirmed reservation is necessary to make a passenger eligible for compensation through a written confirmation issued by the air carrier or its authorized agent, even if the air carrier cannot find the reservation in its electronic records. The passenger should not have cancelled the reservation or missed a reconfirmation deadline.
- The right to compensation and amenities in case of flight delay and exceptions thereto – In case of flight delay7 and exceptions thereto –
- For Terminal Delay of at least 3 hours after the ETD4, whether or not such is attributable to the carrier, a passenger shall have the right to: (1) be provided with refreshments or meals (sufficient snacks, breakfast, lunch or dinner), free phone calls, text or emails and first aid (if necessary); (2) rebook or refund his/her ticket in accordance with 8a.
- For Terminal Delay which extends to at least 6 hours after the ETD4 for causes attributable to the air carrier, it shall be deemed cancelled for the purpose of making available to the passenger the rights and amenities required to be provided in case of actual cancellation, as provided in 8a, and in addition, an affected passenger shall be given the following: (1) additional compensation equivalent to at least the value of the sector delayed or deemed cancelled to be paid in the form of cash or voucher, at the discretion of the air carrier; and, (2) the right to board the flight if it takes place more than 6 hours after the ETD and the affected passenger has not opted to rebook and/or refund; the air carrier is obliged to exert all efforts to contact the passenger for the flight.
- For Tarmac Delay of at least 2 hours after the ETD4, reckoned from the closing of the aircraft doors, or when the aircraft is at the gate with the doors still open but passengers are not allowed to deplane, a passenger shall likewise have the right to be provided with sufficient food and beverage.
- The provisions shall be the minimum entitlement of a passenger in case of delay and shall not prohibit the air carrier from granting more favorable conditions or recourses, as it may deem appropriate.
- The right to compensation for delayed, lost and damaged baggage – In case of delayed, lost and damaged baggage – A passenger shall have the right to have his/her baggage carried on the same flight that s/he takes, subject to considerations of safety, security, or any other legal and valid cause:
- in case a checked-in baggage has been off-loaded7 for operational, safety, or security reasons, the air carrier shall inform the passenger at the soonest practicable time, and in such manner that the passenger will readily know of the off-loading (i.e., that his/her baggage has been off-loaded and the reason for such). If the passenger’s baggage has been off-loaded, the air carrier should make the appropriate report and give the passenger a copy thereof, even if it had already announced that the baggage would be on the next flight.
The air carrier shall carry the off-loaded7 baggage in the next flight with available space, and deliver the same to the passenger either personally or at his/her residence. For every 24-hours of delay (commencing one hour from the arrival of the flight of the passenger carrying such baggage) in such delivery, the air carrier shall tender an amount of 2,000 pesos to the passenger, as compensation for the inconvenience the latter experienced. A fraction of a day shall be considered as one day for purposes of calculating the compensation.
- in case such baggage, whether carried on the same or a later flight, be lost or suffer any damage attributable to the air carrier, the passenger shall be compensated in the following manner: (1) for international flights, the relevant convention8 shall apply; and (2) for domestic flights, upon proof, a maximum amount equivalent to half of the amount in the relevant convention (for international flights) in its peso equivalent.
For compensation purposes, a passenger’s baggage is presumed to have been permanently and totally lost, if within a period of 7 days, counted from the time the passenger or consignee should have received the same, the baggage is not delivered to said passenger or consignee.
- The right to compensation in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger – In case of death or bodily injury of a passenger –
- For international flights, the relevant convention8 and inter-carrier agreement shall apply. However, for an international carriage performed under the 1966 Montreal Inter-Carrier Agreement, which includes a point in the USA as a point of origin, a point of destination or agreed stopping place, the limit of liability for each passenger for death, wounding or other bodily injury, shall be US$75,000, inclusive of legal fees and costs, provided, in the case of a claim brought in a state where a provision is made for a separate award for legal fees and costs, the limit shall be US$58,000, exclusive of legal fees and costs.
- For domestic flights, the compensation shall be based on the stipulated amount in the relevant convention which governs international flights, the same to be given in peso denominations.
12. The right to immediate payment of compensation – An air carrier liable for any and all compensations shall make the same available to the affected passenger at the air carrier’s counters at the airport on the date when the occasion entitling the passenger to compensation occurred, or at the main office or any branch of the air carrier at the discretion of the passenger. The air carrier shall tender a check for the amount specified, or cash, or the document necessary to claim the compensation or benefits mentioned above, provided that such document shall be convertible to cash within 15 days from the date when the occasion entitling the passenger to such compensation occurred.
D. Administrative Matters
- Air Carrier and CAB3 Complaint and Assistance Desks – Air carriers shall provide Customer Service Representatives who can address common problems (e.g., arranging meals and hotel rooms for stranded passengers, settling denied boarding compensation, arranging luggage resolutions, and settling other routine claims or complaints, on the spot).
The CAB3 may provide Complaints and Assistance Desks in all airports, manned by CAB or CAB-deputized personnel, who shall assist passengers whose rights to the service have not been fully satisfied by the air carrier. The said personnel shall assist in the filing and prosecution of the complaints of passengers whose rights have been violated and who wish to go after the concerned air carriers.
- Refund of Other Fees – Every air carrier must refund checked baggage fees and other optional service fees (e.g., insurance, donation to WWF9, seat selector fee), if the passenger did not use his/her ticket, provided that the said ticket is refundable and that the passenger is not at fault. The refund of checked baggage fees will also apply, if the baggage was not delivered to the passenger within 24 hours from the arrival of the flight, on top of the compensation fee as mentioned in air passenger right number 10.
- Written Reports – Air carriers shall submit a monthly report to the CAB3 on the following:
- The number of regular and promotional fare passengers who have been denied boarding, or whose flights were delayed or cancelled;
- The number of regular and promotional fare passengers whose baggage was lost, damaged, or off-loaded7; and,
- The number of regular and promotional fare passengers who died or sustained an injury during the course of the flight or performance of the contract of carriage, as well as the reasons and other circumstances of such occurrences.
Air carriers shall maintain a database containing the names, addresses, and/or other particulars of such passengers, their flights, concerns or complaints, as well as records of the air carrier’s personnel regarding the same, if any, and other pertinent information, available to the CAB upon request.
That’s it! So, Senior Citizens, by now you know your rights when it comes to air travel …
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The following terms are defined for interested readers, especially non-Filipinos, those with “Senior-Moments”, and those too busy or lazy to Google such terms:
1The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) was primary the policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing and administrative government agency in the Philippines responsible for the promotion, development, and regulation of a dependable and coordinated network of transportation and communications systems, as well as the fast, safe, efficient and reliable transportation and communications services. It was dissolved in 2016 with the creation of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). Visit its website: www.dotr.gov.ph
2The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is the executive department of the Philippine government which is responsible for an innovative and competitive business environment, job generation, and consumer empowerment. It accelerates and sustains economic growth through comprehensive industrial growth strategies, progressive and socially responsible trade liberalization and deregulation programs, and policymaking designed for the expansion and diversification of (domestic and foreign) Philippine trade. Visit its website: www.dti.gov.ph
3The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) is the agency of the Philippine government mandated to regulate the economic aspect of air transportation, and shall have the general supervision, control and jurisdiction over air carriers, general sales agents, cargo sales agents, and air freight forwarders, as well as their property, property rights, equipment, facilities, and franchise. It is under the Department of Transportation and Communications1. See its website: www.cab.gov.ph
4ETD stands for Estimated Time of Departure, the date and time which an aircraft is expected to depart from an airport.
5PWD is the abbreviation for Persons With Disability and includes people who have long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.
6Government requisition of space refers to a formal request by the government or its agencies to an air carrier company for the use of an aircraft, or any part thereof, for regulatory, safety, security, and/or emergency purposes.
7Off-loading is the solution of an air carrier which overbooks and more passengers appear than the number of airline seats for a particular flight. Airline passengers are asked to volunteer not to join the flight and join the next flight in exchange for certain monetary compensation and the appropriate arrangement for their accommodation in between flights. This term can also apply to a baggage of a passenger which was not with him/her in his/her flight, for operational, safety or security reasons. See Air Passenger Right # 10.
8Convention refers to the applicable international agreement, convention, or treaty on carriage of persons or goods by air, signed and/or ratified by the Philippines.
9WWF stands for the World Wide Fund for Nature, formerly called World Wildlife Fund (but still used in North America), and considered the world’s largest conservation organization. It is an international non-governmental organization which is focused on wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment, and founded in 1961. Visit its website: www.worldwildlife.org