Having budget airline blues? Go to DTI, says DOTC

The transportation department is tossing complaints related to budget airlines to the trade department since, it says, these are consumer-related issues

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is tossing complaints related to budget airlines to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), citing these are issues that are more consumer-related than transportation-related.  
“This is more of a nature of a consumer affairs matter. I’d rather let the DTI handle it,” DOTC secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas told reporters on Monday, February 27.

The House of Representatives is currently investigating alleged “unjust” and “unfair” policies of the budget carriers, including nonrefundable, nonreroutable and non-endorsable tickets, which, if unused, are forfeited.
“All restrictions should be clearly told to whoever is buying a ticket. The fine print should be readable in big letters. The ticket should bear the exact date of its validity. Things like that so that the consumer should be kept informed,” said Roxas.

Fine print

Candice Iyog, the vice president for marketing for Cebu Pacific Air, a leading local budget carrier, said consumers are informed of the airline’s policy when buying tickets through call centers, ticketing offices and through the website.  
She said ticket buyers are asked to read the terms and conditions before they sign the contract.  
“For on-line booking, one has to read and accept the terms and conditions before the flight is actually booked. That is a practice in any e-commerce site. Our call center agents do a recap of the terms and conditions. Our ticketing offices make sure that consumers consciously look at all information before they sign it. They even get to keep a  copy of it,” explained Iyog.
Promo fares

Most of the complaints, however, are about promotional fares, which budget airlines aggressively sell.

Most promotional fares do not have the same features and flexible rules as regularly priced tickets. For example, buyers of regular ticket can re-book their scheduled flight or cancel their confirmed booking for a penalty.

Carmelo Arcilla of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said a traveler always has the option to avail of promo or regular fares.
“The air fare is also called a product. There are many kinds of air fare in the market and the passenger has the option to avail of any kind. There are cheap fares with less restrictions but the cheapest comes with severe restrictions. There is a price to pay for everything,” said Arcilla.
He said the situation is not unique to the Philippines since restricted rules on promotional air fares also apply to budget carriers in the region.   

“The availability of low fares enabled a bigger society of ours to fly. These include the house helpers who now can take an airplane to travel. This is an offshoot of the LCC (low-cost-carrier) model, a phenomenon that has been popular not only in the Philippines, but rather a global trend already,” he said.

“The question now is do we allow promo fares with no flexibility? That question has yet to be answered,” Arcilla said.

Budget carriers generally offer lower fares and fewer comforts, thus referred to as “no-frills.”

Aside from Cebu Pacific, other no-frills airlines that mount flights to domestic and regional destinations are Airphil Express, Zest Air, and Seair. – Rappler.com

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