With a pandemic plaguing the planet, spontaneous trips now seem to be a thing of the past; but, that doesn’t mean that we have to forego travelling altogether! Simply put, the new normal encourages us to take safer trips with careful planning. That said, we should all be aware of our air passenger rights now more than ever before.
In 2012, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) signed the Air Passenger Rights Bill, which aims to empower travellers by protecting them from abusive airline practices. As travellers, it’s our responsibility to equip ourselves with awareness about our rights — especially during unprecedented times like this.
Air passenger rights every Filipino should know
1. Right to information
Also known as: No scams allowed! Air passengers have the right to know everything about their airline tickets, including the following:
- Price. Is it a regular or promo ticket?
- Inclusions. Does this ticket provide baggage allowance, online check-ins, choice seats, or onboard meals?
- Validity. When does it expire?
- Terms and conditions. Is rebooking, rerouting, or refunding allowed?
All these are information that airlines must provide in full and clear disclosure. Once you purchase your airline ticket, you confirm that you have understood all the terms and conditions stated. Additionally, you should be able to access this vital information even after buying a plane ticket.
2. Right to service purchased
Love being super early for a flight? That habit might just be useful — it prevents you from curtailing your right to service purchased!
Basically, your right to service purchased translates to your right to a decent check-in. However, if you’re not at the check-in area at least an hour before the estimated time of departure (ETD), then you may be stripped off this right.
Under this mandate, domestic airports must open check-in counters at least an hour prior to the ETD; for international airports, check-in counters must be open two hours before the ETD. Senior citizens, people with disabilities (PWDs), and other people who need special assistance are entitled to a priority lane at the check-in counter. In other words, airlines must not be to blame if you don’t make it on time. If you arrive late and are denied check-in, you may proceed to a rebooking counter.
An airline may only deny boarding you if you have legal issues or other concerns involving immigration, safety and security, and health. Notably, a sick person must be allowed to board unless the disease is deemed contagious.
Finally, airlines can’t bump you off a flight without your consent. If the plane is overbooked, the airline must look for passengers who are willing to give up their seats. If you volunteer to give up your seat, you’ll then have the right to a proper compensation package.
3. Right to compensation
Rights when flight is cancelled
Do note that airlines aren’t liable for severe weather conditions. So if a flight is delayed or cancelled because of this, they aren’t obligated to provide hotel accommodations. However, air passengers still have the right to refund their tickets — including taxes and surcharges. You can also rebook your flight without additional charges if necessary.
Rights when flight is delayed
If a flight is delayed for at least three hours, the air passenger has the right to free food and drink, phone calls, text or emails, and first aid. You are also entitled to rebooks, refunds, or endorsement to another carrier if necessary.
Once a flight delay lasts at least six hours, it may be considered a cancelled flight. Thus, you’re entitled to the same rights of flight cancellations.
Rights during tarmac delay
Let’s say you’ve boarded the plane and the craft doesn’t take off within two hours from the ETD. This entitles you to sufficient food and drinks — so don’t hesitate to ask! If the delay reaches three hours, you may be offloaded and guaranteed the rights to a flight cancellation. During the wait, the pilot must update air passengers about the delay every 30 minutes.
Rights when baggage is lost/delayed/damaged
Airlines must inform passengers if their baggage is delayed, lost, or damaged. For every 24 hours of delay, you have the right to ₱2,000 compensation. If the baggage isn’t delivered within 24 hours, you may refund checked baggage fees as well.
If your baggage is lost or damaged in an international flight, complain to the air carrier. Under the Montreal Convention, carriers are liable for damages up to 100,000 SDR (special drawing rights). Domestic flights may give you the maximum amount equivalent to half of the amount of this convention.
To keep your valuables safe, make sure to declare them so that you can claim compensation if necessary.
As we pursue our air passenger rights whenever necessary, let’s remember to stay kind. These times have been confusing for many of us — airlines included — and we all just want to keep one another safe and sound.