PLANE passengers whose travel plans got disrupted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) have the Air Passenger Bill of Rights to inform them of what to do.
While the bill of rights is clear as to what plane passengers are entitled to, those affected by the Covid-19 scare want to see some leeway.
They want the bill of rights to take cognizance of instances when they decide not to proceed with their travel plans since there is the possibility they would be turned back or made to undergo a 14-day quarantine or, on the off chance, catch the virus. Their fears are grounded on the global health emergency declaration brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak.
These plane passengers include those who purchased their tickets months early, during discounted fare promos of airlines. Their tickets were bought with limitations such as no cancellation or rebooking.
They want the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) under the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to issue guidelines on what plane passengers can be entitled to as part of their rights as consumers in this time of the Covid-19.
The DOTr and DTI issued in 2012 a joint administrative order outlining the Air Passenger Bill of Rights. It covers the right to compensation and amenities in case of cancellation of flight and flight delay.
If the flight is canceled, the airline is obligated to “provide sufficient refreshments, hotel accommodation, transportation from airport to the hotel, free phone calls, texts or emails and first aid, if necessary.” The passenger must be reimbursed of the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges, or endorsed to another air carrier or rebooked to the next flight available without additional charge.
If the flight is delayed, the bill states: Air carriers are required to provide refreshments, free phone calls, text or emails and first aid as well as re-book or refund the ticket of the passenger similar to when the flight of the passenger is canceled. If the delay extends to at least six hours from the estimated time of departure, the flight will be considered canceled, and the rights afforded to passengers booked in canceled flights will apply.
A SunStar Cebu report said that if the cancellation or delay is beyond the control of the airline, or in the event of force majeure or unforeseen circumstances like natural disasters, accidents, operational, safety and/or security reasons, strikes or other similar causes like the virus outbreak, passengers may have their ticket fares reimbursed, or tickets rebooked.
Then the airline’s rules apply. Airlines usually allow a rebooking of the flight within 30 days or grant travel vouchers that may be used to book a trip in 90 days.
What if the passengers decide not to proceed with the trip at all since there is still no Covid-19 cure in sight? They could say they were forced to make the decision not to travel to protect their health.
It is a valid consumer concern.