Budget carriers told: Treat passengers better!

The local aviation industry players, especially the budget carriers, are getting a beating from Congress for the quality of their services

FLY CHEAP: Traveling on a budget shouldn't be a hassle. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva

MANILA, Philippines – The local aviation industry players, especially the budget carriers, are getting a beating from Congress for the quality of their services.

Citing personal experiences of being denied boarding, suffering flight delays, among others, members of the House Committee on Transportation bashed airline executives from Cebu Pacific and AirPhil Express at a hearing on Wednesday, February 22.

The lawmakers, including Marikina Rep. Marcy Teodoro and Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Kua, dwelt on practices such as the issuance of nonrefundable and non-endorsable tickets and overbooking.

Kua focused on penalties imposed on late passengers who are forced to buy a new ticket even if the aircraft has not landed yet or is late.

The airline executives apologized profusely but pointed out to the congestion at Manila airport as reason for delays in take-offs and landings.

Upgrade needed

Carmelo Arcilla, the executive director of the Civil Aviation Board (CAB), agreed that upgrades are due for the service standards in the airline industry.

CAB is the economic regulator for the airline industry.

“We need to update our passenger-protection regulations because the existing one is quite obsolete,” he told reporters on Thursday, February 23.

“We will upgrade, make it more relevant to today’s travel experience, sort of modernizing it (passenger-protection program).” he said.

He cited an example: “We need to revise the compensation fee given to passengers who are willing to be bumped off. The global practice is to allow 10% of max overbooking.”

He said that the compensation fee in the existing guidelins is for domestic is P150 and P300 for international.

CAB has been studying the upgrade of the compensation fees to P3,000 for domestic and P5,000 for international airlines, he said.

“Airlines on their own also have their own rates but the passenger may opt for whichever is higher,” he added.

Budget airlines

The liberalization of the airline industry has spawned a number of local airlines in the recent decade. Philippines, being an archipelago, has been an ideal market.

Budget airlines has been cited as key reason for the hefty growth rates in the number of passengers taking flights instead of ships, ferries, and buses. 

In 2011, almost 19 million passengers flew to their local destinations, a feat attributed mainly to the promotional fares offered by budget carriers. 

Budget carriers offer no-frills service and offer tickets that are typically priced lower than that of legacy airlines.

Gokongwei-led Cebu Pacific is the biggest player in the domestic market. It is followed by AirPhil Express, an affiliate of legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) which used to monopolize Philippine skies.

The Aquino government is banking on increasing tourism arrivals from 3.92 million in 2011 to 10 million in 2012. Further liberalization through open skies have been pushed to support the growth targets.

Almost 100% of visitors and Filipinos working abroad reach the Philippines by taking flights to various destinations in the country, but the Manila airport is still the country’s main gateway. – Rappler.com

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