Revisit law penalizing erring airline firms

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A senator emphasized the need to revisit Republic Act (RA) 776 or the Civil Aeronautics Act of the Philippines of 1952 to provide passengers adequate protection against erring airline companies.

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“There is an urgent need to revisit this law because the situation is far different now compared to 63 years ago,” said Sen. Bam Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

“With more Filipinos now who are capable to travel by air to reach to their destination, let’s introduce necessary revisions to the law to make it more responsive to today’s needs and enable it to give enough protection to passengers,” the senator noted.

Aquino stressed the need to review the provisions of RA 776 on Violations and Penalties, where any carrier or person who violates or fails to comply with any provision of the Act, or any of the terms, conditions or limitations in a permit or amendment thereto or any orders, rules or regulations issued by the CAB shall be subject to a fine not exceeding five thousand pesos for each violation.

“It is unacceptable that some of our countrymen were delayed or weren’t able to go home to be with their families and friends during the Christmas season,” Aquino said.

This age-old provision was used as basis by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) in penalizing Cebu Pacific P52.1 million for delays and cancelled flights during the Christmas season. The fine was the largest ever imposed on an airline in Philippine aviation history.

“We also need to look at how to properly compensate our passengers, may it be rebooking, refunding or other forms that will be commensurate of the inconvenience they experienced,” Aquino stressed.

The CAB said Cebu Pacific violated its certificate of public convenience and necessity because of the delays and cancellations that affected 10,400 passengers from December 23 to 26, 2014.

“This incident will become a regular occurrence if the current law lacks the needed punch against erring airline companies,” the senator said.

The senator said that he would file a resolution on the proposed amendments to RA776 next week when the Senate session resumes.

“In the end, we would drive away air travelers, both foreign and local, if we make poor service the norm in our air transportation system,” the senator added.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will check on compliance by Cebu Pacific with the Air Passenger Bill of Rights (APBR) regarding the overbooking mess during Christmas rush week.

The APBR, or the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 1, Series of 2012, was signed by Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya and DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo.

“I called the attention of CAB executive director Carmelo Arcillato to require Cebu Pacific to submit booking records ten days before and ten days after Dec. 25 to establish baseline day and assess, evaluate and determine overbooking,” DTI-Consumer Protection Group (CPG) Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba said in a text message on Monday.

According to the APBR, passengers in the air sector will be assured of protection against perceived unfair policies and practices of airline companies.

Dimagiba asked if there is a need to update or review the air passenger bill of rights.

“I have no comment yet on the need to update the APBR Secretary Domingo also called me for DTI to look into the over booking and compliance to APBR,” Dimagiba added.

The JAO obliges airline companies to provide passengers with compensation and amenities, such as refreshments or meals, hotel accommodations, transportation to and from the airport, and communication, in case of cancellation or flight delays.

The JAO also gives passengers the right to be provided with accurate information; right to receive full value of the service purchased; right to compensation in cases of delay, cancellation, and delayed, lost or damaged baggage.

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