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Air Passenger Bill of Rights

The Air Passenger Bill of Rights places emphasis on the right of the consumer to be informed of the complete terms and conditions of the contract of carriage, among others. The ticket or boarding pass should state either the complete terms and conditions of the contract of carriage or that such terms are readily available in the air carrier’s website, which may be sent to the consumer upon request. In case of online bookings, the consumer must be informed, at least twice, of such terms and conditions prior to final submission of his or her purchase order. In addition, passengers must be apprised verbally of such terms and conditions in a language easily understood by them.

Under US or EU regulations, a passenger is only given a right to obtain the complete terms and conditions of the contract of carriage upon request. Air carriers are not required to make such terms and conditions available in their websites or to verbally apprise the passengers of such terms. Nevertheless, under US regulations, an air carrier must be able to provide an explanation on the terms of carriage in case the passenger requires the same.

In order to prevent travellers from being misled by apparently “cheap” air fares which, in actuality, cost considerably higher than the publicized amount, the Air Passenger Bill of Rights requires air carriers to disclose all other mandatory fees and charges, including government taxes and fuel surcharges, in their fare advertisements. Notably, the new advertisements of several air carriers on promotional air fares now include the breakdown of other fees charged. This is similar to the US and EU regulations which also require the advertisements to state the full price to be charged to the consumer, inclusive of all government taxes and fees.

The Air Passenger Bill of Rights takes cognizance of the practice of air carriers to overbook flights. While the same is not outrightly prohibited, air carriers are required to bear any expense or injury to the passengers who will be affected by such overbooking. As a remedial measure, the air carrier is mandated to seek volunteers who would be willing to give up their seats for reasonable compensation. In case the volunteers are not enough to accommodate all booked passengers, the air carrier is required to further increase the offer to entice sufficient volunteers. The air carrier may not bump off passengers without their consent.

Under US and EU regulations, passengers who are bumped off must likewise be compensated. Air carriers are, however, first required to look for volunteers. If the volunteers are insufficient, the air carrier may apply boarding priority in accordance with the guidelines provided for by their respective regulations.

In case of cancellation of a passenger’s flight, the air carrier is obligated to provide sufficient refreshments, hotel accommodation, transportation from airport to the hotel, free phone calls, texts or emails and first aid, if necessary. Furthermore, the passenger must be reimbursed of the value of the fare, including taxes and surcharges, or endorsed to another air carrier or rebooked to the next flight available without additional charge.

EU regulations provide for similar obligations on the part of the air carrier to provide for reimbursement on the full cost of the flight ticket and, at the option of the passenger, return flight to the first point of origin or re-routing to the final destination. In addition, passengers are entitled to monetary compensation based on the distance of the flights.

US regulations, on the other hand, do not provide for compensation if the flight is delayed as everything will be left to the provisions of the air carrier’s contract of carriage.

Air carriers are required to provide refreshments, free phones calls, text or emails and first aid as well as re-book or refund the ticket of the passenger similar to when the flight of the passenger is cancelled. However, if the delay extends to at least six hours from the estimated time of departure, the flight will be considered cancelled, and the rights afforded to passengers booked in cancelled flights will apply. Moreover, the passenger will be entitled to receive additional compensation. Nevertheless, if the air carrier pushes through with the flight despite the delay of more than six hours, the passenger has the option to board such flight.

Similar to cancellation of flights, US regulation does not afford passengers any compensation or benefits, while EU law does. Reimbursement for reasonable meals and refreshments and two free telephone calls, emails or faxes must be provided in case of delay. If the delay is five hours or more, passengers are entitled to reimbursement of the full cost of the flight ticket together with a return flight to the first point of departure at the earliest opportunity.

Although far from being perfect, the protection afforded by the Air Passenger Bill of Rights to passengers may be considered at par or even better than the protection offered to passengers covered by the US or EU regulations. While the government has done a commendable effort to protect the rights of air passengers and address the abuses of certain air carriers, the measure of success still rests on the effective implementation of such regulation.