Overbooking ban for airlines proposed

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A measure seeking to ban overbooking by airline companies has been filed at the House of Representatives.

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House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list filed House Bill 5361 or the Magna Carta of Airline Passengers Rights in the aftermath of Cebu Pacific’s compliance to pay its P52 million fine overbooking more than 200 flights during the Christmas season.

“One of the salient points of House Bill 5361 is to prohibit overbooking. We should prevent another holiday chaos that affect thousands of airline passengers from happening again,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares said the existing overbooking policy of airlines is highly detrimental to the welfare of passengers because they do not compensate their inconvenienced passengers.

“If your flight is at 7 a.m. and you suddenly need to have it rebooked to 11 a.m. because you have an emergency meeting, you will be charged for the rebooking fee. But if the roles are reversed, say your flight is scheduled at 8 a.m. and yet your flight was moved to 11 a.m., the airlines are not penalized,” Colmenares pointed out.

Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, vice chairman of the House Appropriations panel, backed Colmenares’ measure.

“Yes, Cebu Pacific paid the P52 million fine to the government. But what about the thousands of passengers who suffered from December 24 to 26, 2014? They also deserve just compensation. If the government suffered by way of bad impression in the international community, the passengers suffered the most,” Evardone said in supporting the move.

Colmenares’ proposal addresses such passenger compensation loophole by creating an Office of Aviation Arbiters to do away with unduly long and costly court litigations. The aim, he said, is to quickly resolve passengers’ complaints.

The proposed Magna Carta enumerates eight rights of airline passengers, namely: Right to Full Information; Right to Fair and Reasonable Air Fare; Right to Receive the Full Value of the Service Purchased; Right Against Discrimination; Right Against Unjust Vexation; Right to be Respected; Right to Compensation, and Right to Redress of Grievances.

“There is a proposed P50,000 compensation for every violation of passenger right, to be paid directly to the passenger,” Colmenares said.

Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla of the CAB admitted that there is a need to review the overbooking policy, but quickly clarified that overbooking policy changes should only be limited to the non-refundable tickets such as those tickets purchased on sale out of the airline’s promos.

Under the law, airlines are allowed to overbook at least 10 percent to account for no-show passengers.

“We need to study the overbooking policy on non-refundable fares. But it’s different for those tickets purchased under regular rates. If you purchase a regular [rate]fare and you don’t show up on your flight, you will be rebooked, which is cheaper than buying another ticket,” Arcilla said.

“In effect, you will have two seats for a discounted price. In that case, an airline would be on the losing end,” Arcilla added.

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