Lawmakers on Monday criticized the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) for failing to protect passengers from excessive fares and dismal service of airlines following the holiday flight fiasco involving Cebu Pacific Air which left thousands of passengers stranded in airports.
In House Resolution 1780, Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani said Cebu Pacific’s holiday flight fiasco has become a common occurrence, with other airlines guilty of causing inconvenience to passengers by cancelling flights, delaying arrivals and departures, and charging them excessive penalties and rebooking fees.
Colmenares and Zarate noted passengers never get refunds when airlines cancel or change flight schedules.
Despite such violations committed by airlines, the lawmakers said CAB “has failed to protect the interest of airline passengers up till now.”
Accountable For Dismal Service
In an earlier interview, Colmenares said CAB is also accountable for the airlines’ dismal service.
“While it is good that the CAB will already start their investigation to get to some of the details of the continued inconvenience of airline passengers, I think that the CAB should also be probed for not doing its duty to regulate these airlines and protect airline passengers,” he said.
CAB last week summoned Cebu Pacific officials to explain the cancellation of 20 flights and the delays of 720 others from Dec. 24 to 26, which caused inconvenience to thousands of passengers.
CAB officials dismissed as “unacceptable” the argument that fiasco was caused by air traffic congestion, weather condition, and sudden leave of absence of ground crews.
It will release its recommendation for the airline, including the sanctions it may face, by mid-January.
‘Deceptively Low’ Fares
Other problems which the lawmakers said should be investigated by Congress the practice of airlines offering “deceptively low” initial base fares, but charging them prohibitive taxes and surcharges, and the policy of making passengers pay for the use of the passenger tube even though it should be a service.
In addition, Colmenares and Zarate said airlines should offer lower fares by now as fuel prices have decreased significantly in recent weeks.
Also on Monday, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone filed House Resolution 1782 asking the House committees on transportation and legislative franchises to probe Cebu Pacific in particular for possible violations of Republic Act 7151 and other related laws over the widespread flight delays and cancellations during the peak holiday season.
The lawmaker noted the airline had no excuse to cancel as well as delay the arrivals and departures since there was no reported weather disturbance in Metro Manila during those three days.
“There have been complaints by paying passengers on Cebu Pacific’s poor services, resulting in long queues, flight delays and cancellations without due notice, overbooking, among others, even on Christmas holidays, on December 24, 25, and 26, 2014, in particular,” he said.
Section 3 of Republic Act 7151, which granted Cebu Pacific’s franchise to operate an airline in 1991, states: “Excepting cases of force majeure and whenever weather conditions permit, the grantee shall maintain scheduled/ non-scheduled/ chartered air transport services between and all points throughout the Philippines.”
Citing news reports, Evardone attributed the disenfranchisement of Cebu Pacific’s passengers during the holiday travel season to the airline’s apparent lack of a contingency plan to address the deluge of passengers, especially at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Evardone warned the airline could lose its franchise if Congress finds it remiss in fulfilling the duties stated in its franchise.
“[A]s grantors of the franchise, it is incumbent upon this august body to check on the conduct of Cebu Air Inc., as grantee and terminate the franchise for the common good,” he said.
Source:VS, GMA News