CAB to issue rules improving service to stranded airline passengers

By Paolo Montecillo

July 25, 2010

MANILA, Philippines -- The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) will soon come out with guidelines that seek to better protect the interests of customers.

CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla in a recent interview said the regulator has been drafting guidelines for procedures to be followed by airlines during long flight delays.

He said the CAB would order airlines to treat their passengers better during flight delays, even if these were caused by factors beyond human control. This comes after the recent diversion of several flights to secondary airports around the country following the inability of aircraft to land at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) runway due to visibility problems.

Planes coming from both international and domestic airports, which were unable to land in Manila due to poor weather conditions, were forced to land either in Clark Freeport, Pampanga or Cebu City.

While waiting for conditions in Manila to improve, Arcilla said most airlines simply kept passengers inside their aircraft for hours on end.

“This is why we’re coming up with passenger protection guidelines for tarmac delays,” he said.

He said under the regulator’s draft rules, airlines would be required to at least provide drinking water and light snacks to their passengers in case of delays.

Under the same rules, the CAB said if a plane was stuck on a runway for more than three to four hours, the airline would be required to allow the passengers to alight the aircraft should they want to do so.

“We will let them choose if they want to deplane. But of course, there are some exceptions like if the passengers will be put in danger or allowing them to get off will cause undue delay to other flights,” Arcilla said.

The CAB will have a public hearing regarding the draft rules this week.

Another set of rules for passenger protection, Arcilla said, would cover transparency over the promotion of discounted tickets. He said the CAB issued the rules on promotional fares earlier this year, but strict implementation has not yet begun.

In the new rules, he said airlines would have to be clear that government taxes and surcharges were usually not included in the discounted prices being advertised.

“They also have to report to the CAB how many seats for the promos are available,” he said.

Failure to follow these rules would result in stiff sanctions and fines or, in extreme cases, the cancellation of an airline’s permit to operate in the country, Arcilla said.

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