THERE are four names that are in the forefront of airline and telco services in this country: Lucio Tan and Lance Gokongwei for PAL and CebuPac, respectively; and Manny Pangilinan of Smart and Jaime August Zobel de Ayala of Globe. Four names that decide whether you have rights or none. Four names that earn in the hundreds of billions of pesos by providing lousy service to Filipinos.
My flag carrier, PAL, has gone from bad to worst. The heart of the Filipino is heartless and I am saying this because of the way they treat their passengers. The traditional excuses of air traffic and delayed turnaround are so overused. Loyal customers have started wondering what’s going on with PAL since it was flipped back to Lucio Tan by Ramon Ang in a business deal. CebuPac, on the other hand, is one nightmare story after another. As one passenger who had a horrific story says, “para kaming baka.” Just because you are an economy airline, you don’t have any right to pack them and herd them like cattle.
On May 13, my PAL flight from Cebu to Manila was delayed. I had gone to Cebu to attend a Philippine Political Science Association international conference. The flight to Cebu was also delayed. For a 3 p.m. flight, we ended up leaving at 8 p.m. With nary a bottle of water, chewing gum or candy. Nothing. No explanation as to why there was no offer of dinner. When clearly those are provided for in the DOTC-DTI Joint Administrative Order No. 1 setting out passengers’ rights.
In case of flight cancellation attributable to the carrier, a passenger shall have the right to: “(a) Be notified beforehand via public announcement, written/published notice and flight status update service (text); (b) 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, v.v.; free phone calls, text or e-mails, and first aid, if necessary; and (c) 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; or (d) 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 (e) Rebook the ticket, without additional charge, to the next flight with available space, or, within thirty (30) days, to a future trip within the period of validity of the ticket. However, for rebooking made in excess of the aforementioned thirty (30) days for a trip likewise within the validity of the ticket, fees and/or fare difference shall apply.”
In case of flight delays, specifically, terminal delay of at least three hours after the ETD, whether or not such is attributable to the carrier, a passenger shall have the right to: “(a) Be provided with refreshments or meals (sufficient snacks, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as the case may be), free phone calls, text or e-mails, and first aid, if necessary; and (b) Rebook or refund his/her ticket. In case such Terminal Delay extends to at least 6 hours after the ETD for causes attributable to the 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, and in addition, an affected passenger shall be given the following: (a) 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 (b) 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. For this purpose, the air carrier is obliged to exert all efforts to contact the passenger for the flight.”
Take note, a “passenger shall likewise have the right to be provided with sufficient food and beverage, in cases of tarmac delay of at least 2 hours after the ETD,” 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 colleague stayed the whole day at the airport not knowing what happened to their flight. Those who have little means just accept the delays as part of the culture. This is where I get really mad at how the airlines choose to treat customers. If you are docile, they will trample on you. If you insist, they will grant your rights.
Mr. Lucio Tan, you have violated the rights of passengers every day of your operation. If your time is valuable, so is ours. If passengers rebook, we pay the penalty, right? What do you pay for not respecting our rights? For sitting and waiting for a flight an average of 2 to 3 hours? Can you give mileage for every 10 minutes’ flight delay? You’ve got to be fair. It can’t be a one-way street. You have a candy, chewing gum and bottled water companies and you can’t even give us tokens?
(To be continued)