Protecting passengers' rights won't kill budget travel industry - Roxas

Posted at 07/09/2012 8:15 AM | Updated as of 07/09/2012 10:58 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The multi-government agency effort to address consumer complaints will not kill the highly successful budget air travel that has fueled the growth of the local aviation industry, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said.

“Let me reiterate to the airline companies that we are not here to ruin their business or cause them to lose money or in any way jeopardize what has been a successful model,” Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II said.

“But this model cannot be successful at the expense of the rights of the innocent passenger, who is a contractual partner in a contract entered into whenever a ticket is sold,” he noted.

Roxas along with Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo presided over a first public hearing on the Passenger Bill of Rights yesterday at the DOTC head office in Mandaluyong City.

Domingo said the hearing was meant to strike a balance between the interest of airline companies and passenger’s rights.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez described the hearing as a “historic day” and said that the problem of runway congestion in our airports was brought about by the sudden surge in travel.

“We wouldn’t be in this room today if there wasn’t a sudden surge in travel in our country,” Jimenez said.

The stakeholders were given turn to present their positions and submit their inputs or amendments to the 13-page working draft of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.

House committee of transportation member Samar Rep. Mel Sarmiento, co-author of the Airline Passenger Fairness Act, extended his support to the administrative order.

Elvira Medina of the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection made a pitch for the rights of persons with disabilities and the improvement of emergency facilities inside aircraft. Other representatives and private individuals also expressed the sentiments of the senior citizens.

Labor advocate and former labor undersecretary Toots Ople relayed the sentiments of overseas Filipino workers who had been bumped off from their flights on their way to their work destination.

Among the issues raised by airline companies were passengers’ responsibility in arriving at airports three hours before their flight, delayed and cancelled flights due to force majeure, the requirement for a reserved aircraft, and the coverage of inbound and outbound international flights.

They also vowed to follow the administrative order that would create the Passengers Bill of Rights.

Roxas said the Technical Working Group would receive all inputs and proposed amendments until July 16 and the next hearing is tentatively scheduled on July 20.

Roxas said the hearing would rationalize and clarify the rights and obligations of the passengers and the airlines to foster a better relationship between the two sectors.

“The rights and obligations will be more clear both for the passengers and the airline companies. This will also help in improving their relationship in such a way that the blaming and pointing of fingers can be lessened,” Roxas said in Filipino.

The hearing was attended by several consumer groups, organizations of differently abled persons, senior citizens groups and airline industry representatives.

Also present in the public hearing yesterday were Civil Aeronautics Board executive director Carmelo Arcilla, Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado, and newly installed Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director-general William Hotchkiss III.

Among the airline companies who expressed support and presented their views to the joint DOTC-DTI panel were Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, SeaAir, Air Philippines, Zest Air and Sky Airways.

Also present were the National Consumer Affairs Council and other private individuals. Representing the travel agents was the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.