Were passenger rights violated during airport fiasco caused by Xiamen Air’s runway mishap?

LAWMAKERS are asking the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to investigate possible airline passenger rights violations with the stranding of thousands of people as the “runway excursion” of Xiamen Air Flight MF86 caused the cancellation of 150 flights.

With the incident, Quezon City Rep. Winston Marcelo, chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, also renewed the call to privatize the Naia.

“It is highly politicized, we do not have that professionalism. In the bureaucracy, I think if we entice the private sector to invest here, then the operation, management and supervision of NAIA will be professionalized,” said Castelo.

For his part, Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said stranded passengers are entitled to certain amenities in case of terminal delay, even if it is due to force majeure or circumstances beyond the airline’s control.

“Airlines clearly have obligations. And the CAB should now ascertain which carriers lived up to their duties, and which of them neglected passengers during the Aug. 17-18 disorder,” Campos, a deputy minority leader, said.

The CAB desks are meant to aid in the filing and prosecution of the complaints of passengers whose rights have been violated, and who wish to go after the concerned carriers, Campos said.

“If necessary, those found wanting should be penalized administratively by the CAB,” the lawmaker said.

Campos was referring to Joint Administrative Order No. 01 of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Providing for a Bill of Rights for Air Passengers and Carrier Obligations.

Section 12 of the AO provides that, “In case of terminal delay of at least three hours after the estimated time of departure, whether or not such is attributable to the carrier, a passenger shall have the right to:   Be provided with refreshment or meals (sufficient snacks, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, as the case may be), free phone calls, text or e-mails, and first aid, if necessary; and Rebook or refund his/her ticket …or be endorsed to another carrier…”

Under the AO, airlines are also supposed to “provide customer service representatives who can address common problems, such as arranging for meals and hotel rooms for stranded passengers, settling denied boarding compensation, arranging luggage resolutions, and settling other routine claims or complaints on the spot.”

Many passengers stuck at the terminal during the NAIA mess had complained that nobody looked after them, and that they were basically left to fend for themselves.

Under the AO, the CAB is also supposed to have “complaints and assistance desks” to help passengers whose rights have not been fully satisfied by a carrier.

House inquiry 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has set for September 5 its inquiry into the current state of the country’s airports.

Castelo said the Committee on Transportation chairman, Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduandes, sought the investigation on what happened over the weekend.

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Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013. Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives. She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008. At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

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