Magna Carta benefitting airline passengers sought in House

A "Magna Carta of Air Passengers' Rights" is being sought by the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on the heels of the disastrous Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) New Year's day crisis.

The scene at NAIA on Jan. 2, 2023, a day after the critical system glitch (Noel Pabalate/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Militant solons ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel filed House Bill (HB) No. 6738 for this purpose.

"This bill if enacted will replace the ineffective DOTC-DTI Joint Administrative Order (JAO) 01-2012, providing for the Bill of Rights of Air Passengers and Airline Obligations, and will also be useful in cases to be filed against negligent or incompetent aeronautic government agencies or GOCCs (government-owned and controlled corporations)," Castro said in a statement Thursday, Jan. 12.

"We need a law that would truly protect airline passengers and also serve as a deterrent to sloppy and inefficient work practice in the airline industry that caused the shutdown in NAIA last New Year's day," she added.

Castro, a senior deputy minority leader in the House, was referring to the glitch sustained by NAIA’s Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) last Jan.1, which resulted to the cancellation of over 400 flights that day. Over 65,000 passengers were affected.

The CNS/ATM is supposedly maintained by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

"This bill seeks to refile past versions of the proposal for An Act providing for the Magna Carta of Airline Bus Passengers' Rights, imposing obligations on the airline companies, providing for penal sanctions, and for other purposes, originally filed by Bayan Muna Party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate during the 16th Congress," HB No.6738 read.

Although the recent NAIA incident is no fault of the airline companies, the Makabayan solons' bill nonetheless seeks to protect airline passengers rights vis a vis these airline companies.

"Despite increasing profits from a growing air industry business, airline companies have wantonly disregarded passengers' rights, confident that Filipino airline passengers do not generally demand for remedies against abuse due to the expensive and tedious legal processes that normally favor the rich and the powerful and not the victims," read the measure's explanatory note.

"It is a widely known fact that, among others problems, long queues in check-in counters, delayed flights, or even sudden cancellations of flights, to name a few, continue to be prevalent in all airports in the country. This problem has been plaguing airline passengers for decades," it stated.

"There is a need for a law that will provide for the rights of airline passengers and impose obligations on airline companies to ensure safe, convenient and affordable travel for the people. Said law should penalize airline companies for violation of air passengers' rights in order to put a stop to this persistent and recurring problem," it also said.

The bill further underscored the need for a law "that will provide victims speedy legal remedy and discourage airline companies from disregarding their passengers' rights".