Know your rights as an airline passenger

James Ryan Jonas

To those airline passengers who have missed meetings and appointments because of hours of delays, to those who have lost their luggage without either compensation or even a sincere apology from airline companies, and to those who were lured by “cheap” fares only to discover excessive hidden fees and charges, here’s an early Christmas gift for you.
The “Airline Passengers’ Bills of Rights” takes effect effect today, December 21, 2012. Also known as Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 1 by the Department of Tourism and the Department of Transportation and Communication, this bill of rights gives air travelers well-defined rights and avenues to air their grievances against abusive airline companies with proper redress.
This bill of rights is no doubt a good step towards giving travelers better and well-deserved customer service that have been sorely lacking in industry in the past years. It doesn’t end here, though. Strict implementation of the rules and existence of convenient avenues to file complaints against erring airline companies should pave the way for a much-better airline industry in the country.
Here is a summary of the salient points of the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. Read, be informed, and exercise your rights as an air traveler.
Right to compensation and amenities in case of Flight Delays
a. In case of Terminal Delay (defined as “a flight delay that occurs while passengers are still inside the terminal waiting to board”) of at least three (3) hours after the expected time of departure (ETD) regardless of reason for delay, a passenger shall have right to:

  • be provided with refreshments or meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, as the case may be);
  • be provided with free phone calls, texts, or emails, and first aid, if necessary; and
  • rebook or refund ticket subject to conditions outlined in the Bill of Rights

b. In case of Terminal Delay extending for at least six (6) hours after the ETD for causes attributable to the carrier, the flight is deemed “cancelled” for the purpose of making available to the passenger rights and amenities required to be provided in case of actual cancellation (see below).
Right to compensation and amenities in case of Cancelled Flights
a. In case of flight cancellation attributable to the airline, the passenger is entitled to:

  • be notified beforehand via public announcement or published notice;
  • 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 and vice-versa; free phone calls, text or emails, and first aid, if necessary;
  • 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;
  • 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
  • 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 apply.

b. 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.
Right to Clear and Non-Misleading Promos and Advertisements
a. All fare advertisements must disclose the following:

  • Conditions and restrictions attached to the fare type;
  • Refund and rebooking policies, if any;
  • Baggage allowance policies;
  • Government taxes and fuel surcharges;
  • Other mandatory fees and charges;
  • Contact details of the carrier (i.e. phone number, website, e-mail, etc.); and
  • Other information necessary to apprise the passenger of the conditions and the full/total price of the ticket purchased

b. For promo fares such as “Piso fares” or other “cheap flight promos,” the following information must also be announced:

  • Number of seats offered on a per sector basis;
  • Duration of the promo; and
  • The CAB Approval No. of Fares

c. These disclosures must occupy at least one-third (1/3) of the advertising material and must also be printed or attached to the ticket.
Right to Compensation for Lost, Delayed, or Damaged Baggage
a. In case a checked-in baggage has been off-loaded for operational, safety or security reasons, the passenger must be informed at the soonest practicable time. The baggage must be carried in the next flight with available space and must be delivered to the passenger personally or at his/her residence.
b. The passenger must be paid P2,000 for every 24 hours their baggage is missing. After 7 days, the baggage would be deemed lost.
c. For lost or damaged baggage, the compensation will be in the following manner:

  • For international flights, the relevant conventions shall apply;
  • For domestic flights, upon proof, a maximum amount in Peso equivalent to half of the amount in the relevant convention (for international flights).

Right to Immediate Payment of Compensation
Compensation to affected passengers shall be made at the airline counters at the airport on the date when the occasion occurred entitling the passenger to compensation. Alternatively, it may be done at the airline’s main office or any of their branches, at the discretion of the passenger.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.