What the Air Passenger Bill of Rights means.
The Philippine government has brought in a new Bill called “Air Passenger Bill of Rights” which basically is a bill to protect the consumer from airlines use of overbooking and “misleading” promo fares. This is something that should have happened years ago as it’s common place in other countries.
Overbooking of flights.
It’s a common practice of overbooking flights; the airlines allow reservation systems to book seats on an aircraft which in reality are already sold! Working in a travel agent, I’ve on a number of occasions been able to book seats and then just happen to be on the phone to the airline and ask about the seating only to be told the flight is -9 seats, meaning already 9 people overbooked! Usually up to 10% of the seats in an aircraft can be oversold. Why do they do this? Firstly airlines work on small margins especially on these low cost carriers. Statistically around 10% of people do not turn up for their booked flight. This is due to a number of reasons, and the biggest culprit is business people who inadvertently get delayed with meetings and other work related delays. Typically these passengers are on the higher priced flexible tickets, so it’s easy for them to turn up late and change flights without penalties. It’s the passengers travelling on the promo fares (tickets with no refunds or changes) that are most likely not to miss their flights.
Getting bumped! Most of the time you would never know a flight had been overbooked and everything runs smoothly. Enviably there are times when this just doesn’t happen, and there are too many passengers and not enough seats! This is where the “Air Passenger Bill of Rights” comes into place. It basically forces the airlines to compensate “bumped” passengers with (depending on the circumstances) food, water, transfers to other flights (without any extra costs) and possible accommodation and transport..
Cancellation/delays of Flights.
If a flight is delayed (caused by airline and not something that is out of their control like a typhoon or other bad weather!), or cancelled, passengers have the right to compensation including things such as food, re booking on other flights without extra cost and accommodation depending on the circumstances. Airline delay or cancel flights for a number of reasons, usually it’s due to mechanical issues with the aircraft which need to be fixed.
What the Air Passenger Bill of Rights means for the consumer.
Having this Bill is certainly a plus and is well overdue. It’s been common practice already by airlines in other parts of the world so it’s a welcomed win to the consumer here in the Philippines. It’s a horrible feeling to have your holiday plans disrupted by something that is totally out of your control, not only that it adds extra stress, other connections/ plans of your holiday get affected and who knows what else!
The negative side of this is how airlines react. This Bill will affect their bottom line. Imagine a passenger booked on a promo 1 Peso fare that gets their flight cancelled and there are no more flights to the destination until the next day. The airline will have to provide food and accommodation as well as transport to the hotel. How much money would the airline lose on something like this? Airlines will inevitably put fares up or maybe have less promo fares. With more pressure on airline to cut down delays/cancellations will this lead to compromises on safety? Aircraft delays and cancellations are generally caused by mechanical problems, will the pressure on the bottom line force the airlines to turn a blind eye and just fly the aircraft anyhow?
Update: It seems airlines have quietly been raising their fees while keeping these cheap fares. A sneaky way of getting around the Bill? In the end the consumer always loses out!