Roxas wants more transparency from airlines

Posted at 07/06/12 4:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas wants local airlines to be more transparent when it comes to dealing with their passengers.

This comes as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), airlines, passenger groups and other stakeholders aired their views on the "Air Passenger Bill of Rights" during a public hearing on Friday.

"This bill of rights will set forth the rights and obligations of passengers. For example, they have the right not to be bumped off, but they have an obligation to be there a certain number of hours before the flight. Most importantly, it will set off the rules on full disclosure, para walang gulatan," Roxas told ANC.

While Roxas said the government doesn't want to interfere in the business of airlines, he said airlines should disclose conditions properly and passengers have the right to compensation if airlines violate these.

In particular, Roxas wants airlines to be more transparent when coming out with their ads on promo fares.

"You have to inform your customers of all the restrictions. Right now, when you take a look at the ad it's 99% buy, buy, buy, mura, mura, mura, lipad, lipad, lipad and 1% is yun mga restrictions, you can't change, rebook, refund, walang kumot, mani at tubig. Ilagay niyo yun para alam ng bumibili kung ano binibili niya," he said.

AirAsia chief executive officer Marianne Hontiveros said she supports Roxas' call for more transparency.

"He said we need to be transparent and I'm for that 100%," she told ANC, adding that AirAsia was the first to offer "all-in promo fares" in the industry.

"When we started, that's precisely what I told my commercial team, let's tell the customers upfront what they're going to pay for. We came out with the 'all-in' fares, free seats or P1 seats, you have to pay P275 to covetr fuel surcharge, VAT, aviation security fees, so the client knows the seat is free but you have to pay for that. Now the other airlines are doing it," Hontiveros said.

However, some of the other provisions of the draft air passenger bill of rights remain contentious.

During Friday's hearing, Alex Reyes, a representative of Cebu Pacific, said that while the airline supports passenger rights, the government should impose them on foreign airlines and other forms of transportation.

Hontiveros pointed out there are provisions that penalize airlines for delays, even if it's not their fault. For instance, there are delays caused by runway congestion.

"You can't blame the airline for that. Right now, the draft says that if there's a 2-hour delay, the airlines would have to pay for the meals, phone calls, but it's not our fault. It's the fault of the air traffic control or congestion at the airport," she said.

On the airlines' practice of overbooking, which the Civil Aeronautics Board originally wanted to ban, Hontiveros noted that it is being practiced by both low cost carriers and legacy airlines.

"It's a revenue management tool that should be used judiciously," she said.

Roxas has asked the airlines and other groups, including those representing travel agents, people with disabilities and overseas Filipinos, to submit their comments on the proposed draft of the air passenger bill of rights.

The Transportation Secretary expressed confidence the new rules, which cover refunds, rebookings, overbooking and bump offs, will be released by August.

"The long and short of it is this - the success of the industry, cannot and we will not allow it, will not be based on trampling on the common courtesy rights of passengers, not knowing if they will be bumped off or not," Roxas said. - With ANC