Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights

If you are planning on flying home or to any other destination this Lenten Season, you are not alone. An estimated half a million Filipinos will travel international and domestic airlines during this time and all they really want is to get to where they are going ON TIME.

But it doesn't always work-out like that. Bad weather is a major cause of delay but there are also things like mechanical problems, staff sickness and certain regulatory problems like what is happening right now at the Bureau of immigration, which can hinder your timely travel plans. The best advice is to always get to the airport early because queues and check-in and security will suck. However, if things go wrong, if the flight is cancelled or delayed, you are entitled to help and sometimes even compensation.

The Passenger Bill of Rights provides for your right to compensation and amenities in case of cancellation of flights:

If the cancellation happened at least 24 hours before the estimated time of departure (ETD), the air carrier has to notify its passengers beforehand of the fact of the cancellation and to rebook or reimburse the passenger, at the latter's option.

If the cancellation happened less than 24 hours before the ETD, the air carrier still has to notify its passengers beforehand the fact of the cancellation plus provide amenities which may include food and drinks and hotel accommodations. In addition, the passenger should be reimbursed of the value of the fare, taxes, surcharges and other fees paid by the passenger. Moreover, the air carrier should endorse the carrier to another airline without paying any fare difference or to re-book the ticket without incurring any additional charges.

If the cancellation is not attributable to the air carrier such as force majeure and safety and/or security reasons, the air carrier should reimburse the passenger the full value of the fare.

"Magbangka Na Lang Ako"
In case of delays, the passenger has the following rights:

In case the delay is at least 3 hours after the ETD, the passengers are entitled to avail of refreshments or meals, free phone calls, texts or e-mails and to first aid, if necessary. Passengers may also rebook or refund the ticket or be endorsed to another carrier.

In case the delay is at least 6 hours after ETD, the flight can be considered cancelled for the purpose of availing the rights and amenities provided for in case of actual cancellation. Passengers are also entitled to additional compensation equivalent to at least the value of the sector delayed and to board the flight if it takes place more than 6 hours after ETD and the affected passenger has not opted to rebook and/or refund.

If you do make it on the plane, there are tarmac delays to deal with. The airlines can't hold you on-board without taking-off for more than 3 hours for domestic flights, although it sounds hellish, you should get food and water after delay of at least 2 hours.

"Inumaga na ko kakahintay"
For delayed, lost and/or damaged baggage, the passenger has the right to be informed of the fact of off-loading. He shall be entitled to a compensation of Php 2,000 for every 24 hours of delay. There should also be a refund of checked baggage fees if the baggage was not delivered within 24 hours from the arrival of the flight.

And if the baggage is lost or suffered any damage, the relevant convention shall apply for international flight while the right to a maximum amount equivalent to half of the amount in the relevant convention in its Peso equivalent apply to Domestic Flights.

Lastly, the passengers affected has the right to immediate payment of compensation either through check or cash or any document convertible to cash within 15 days from the date when the occasion occurred. . Payment must be available to the affected passengers at the air carrier's counter at the airport on the date when the incident occurred or at the main office or any branch of the air carrier, at the discretion of the passenger.

Now, let me relate this to the viral video of a doctor who was forcefully off-loaded in a United Airlines flight (see video below):

As a general rule, once a passenger has already checked-in, he can no longer be off-loaded without his consent. Once the passenger has already ticket, confirmed seat and has arrived at the airport at the right time and has already undergone all the required procedures for check-in, he can no longer be not allowed to fly much less off-loaded from the plane.

This is the general rule that is subject only to the following exceptions: (1) immigration issues (2) safety and security issues (3) health concerns (4) non-appearance at the boarding gate at the appointed boarding time; and (5) government requisition of space upon proper written request from the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Can the viral offloading that transpired in the USA also happen here in the Philippines?

Firstly, that was a case of over-booking, and over booking is a recognized practice everywhere even under the Passenger Bill of Rights where a maximum of 10% overbooking is allowed to provide allowance for those who booked and later on decided not to take the flight.

As a matter of procedure, in case of overbooking, the airlines will ask for volunteers. If there are no volunteers, the airlines are not allowed just to randomly pick whoever should be off-loaded. What they should have done is to increase the compensation offer, whether in cash, free tickets, accommodation or others, in the auction system until someone accepts the offer. There must be no maximum amount of offer unlike in this United Airlines where there was a maximum offer of $1,300.00. Here in the Philippines, if there are generous offers, I am sure someone will grab it, I know I will.

Also, here in the Philippines, we have a general rule on damages provided by Article 21 of the Civil Code. Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. This means that any act committed by someone that is detrimental to the person may be awarded damages.

"Kung off-load nyo ko, dapat ganito"
This was put to test in a case decided by the Supreme Court where a Filipino who has a confirmed seat in business class was forcefully transferred by the airline to an economy class to accommodate a Caucasian. The Filipino filed a suit against the airline and was awarded millions in moral and other damages.

I doubt if what happened in the above video will happen here in the Philippines, but if it does, it will be costly.


  1. Very interesting article. As a lawyer myself it was a great read. There is a lot to take in and observe when it comes to rules and regulations in air travel. Obviously United Airlines handled the situation badly and will suffer the consequences now, both legal and in terms of reputation.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  2. Going to different countries and cities can be quite time consuming, especially if you need to check for connecting flights. Cheap airfare app