Test case for passenger rights: ZestAir, airport sued
MANILA, Philippines – Seeking "to encourage other air travelers who suffered" the way he did, lawyer and former senatorial candidate Samson Alcantara has filed a civil case that could set a precedent in the enforcement of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.
Alcantara, 79, fainted at the airport on May 23, sustaining injuries, after lining up for two hours at the check-in counter of Zest Airways at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4.
On Wednesday morning, June 11, he sued Zest Airways Incorporated (also known as Air Asia Zest) and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for at least P1.1 million ($25,135*) in civil damages and P200,000 ($4,570*) in attorney's fees.
Alcantara said Zest Airway's check-in area was "hot, congested, was not provided with seats." It "did not have any senior citizens' express or priority lanes."
Because of this, Terminal 4's check-in premises "pose a serious danger to the health and safety of the air passengers," he said in his 5-page complaint. Yet, passengers, "to reach their destination, have no choice but to use the same."
'Malevolence and callousness'
In a text message to Rappler, Alcantara said, "It should be noted that what happened to me was not the first one."
He said he filed the case "to make those (airline authorities) more responsible in the performance of their duties." The case was filed before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
The reliefs he sought, if and when granted, will serve as a lesson on prioritizing the welfare of passengers, particularly the elderly, he said.
In his complaint, Alcantara cited the Air Passenger Bill of Rights, which took effect in December 2012.
Under Section 9.2, Chapter III, there must be at least one check-in counter per air carrier prioritizing persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and persons requiring special assistance.
If impracticable, the airlines must provide priority handling and processing of said passengers.
He said Zest Airways and the MIAA showed "malevolence and callousness" in their use of the terminal's check-in area despite the insufficient facilities and "despite widespread public outrage."
Willful breach of duty
On May 23, Alcantara was set to depart for Kotakinabalu, Malaysia, for a weekend excursion with his other faculty members of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law.
Alcantara "lost consciousness, fell on the floor and sustained injuries in the head and left elbow" during the wait at Zest Airways' check-in counter, his complaint read. He was brought to NAIA clinic and later to the San Juan De Dios Hospital, where he was discharged 3 days later.
Alcantara said MIAA showed "bad faith" when it implied in a May 23 press statement that Alcantara's fall was due to hunger.
He said he "was not hungry on that occasion" and "has more than enough income to avoid hunger."
Alcantara is a practicing lawyer, a lecturer and bar reviewer. He is also president of Social Justice Society (SJS), the political party that first petitioned the High Court to declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund unconstitutional.
The PDAF is a lump sum used at the discretion of lawmakers to finance their community development pet projects. – Rappler.com
*($1 = P43.76)