Assert your rights: 8 things to keep in mind as an airline passenger

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Passengers wait in Terminal 2 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Every summer, the high demand for plane tickets usually coincides with big-discount offers from air carriers.

Along with thousands of passengers, maybe you’re also itching to leave home for a fun island getaway or a week-long trip to indulge your wanderlust.

However, all that excitement flies out the window once you learn that your flight is delayed, or worse, canceled.

Before complaining to airline staff or posting a long rant on social media, it’s only reasonable that you learn your rights as an airline passenger first.

In December 2012, the Air Passenger Bill of Rights (APBR) was finally put into action. Under the APBR, you have three primary rights: the right to be provided with accurate information before purchase, the right to receive the full value of the service you purchased, and lastly, the right to compensation.

Remember, you can’t assert your rights if you don’t know what they are.

Here are some important points of the APBR that you should always bring with you before and after your trip.

1. Tickets, ads, and promos

Even if you haven’t booked a flight yet, you’re entitled to accurate information. When looking at ads and promos, be sure to check out the following: the conditions and restrictions of your flight; refund, rebooking, and baggage allowance policies; government taxes and fuel surcharges; the airline’s contact details; and other mandatory fees and charges.

Take note of seat availability and the validity period of airline promos. Likewise, your ticket must clearly state the terms and conditions of the ticket and of the flight.

2. Check-in

Are you a buzzer beater? Don’t worry. Air carriers can't refuse to process your check-in, provided that you reach the designated check-in area at least an hour before your estimated time of departure (ETD).

Check-in counters at international airports must be open two hours before the ETD, and for other airports, at least one hour before.

There must be a priority lane for senior citizens, people with disabilities (PWDs), and people who need special assistance, and a special counter must be opened for a flight nearing its check-in deadline. 


3. Overbooked flights

Airlines can’t bar you from boarding the plane without your consent, except for valid reasons.

In case a flight is overbooked (air carriers are allowed to overbook flights but they have to make sure to inform passengers), the airline will look for volunteers who are willing to give up their seats—say, people who don't plan on posting cloud photos on Instagram—in exchange for a compensation package.

What if everybody wants to post cloud photos on Instagram? If so, an auction will ensue: The airline will offer more incentives until enough passengers volunteer to give up their seats.

4. Delayed flights

You’re all set to go but the airline announces your flight is delayed. This is understandably frustrating, but before you completely unravel at the airport, be reminded that in case of a delay, the airline is obligated to keep you happy with food, drinks, free phone calls, texts, emails, or first aid, if necessary.

Not only that, a terminal delay of three hours, whether or not it’s the airline’s fault, gives you the right to be endorsed to another airline or have your ticket rebooked or refunded.

Do take note that airlines offer special compensation and insurance packages, so study the terms and conditions of your flight well.

Your flight is automatically canceled if a terminal delay exceeds six hours. 

5. Canceled flights

After a long commute to the airport, the airline announces that your flight is canceled. If this happens, you must be given a compensation package similar to that of delayed flights, with the addition of free hotel accommodation and transportation from the airport to the hotel and vice-versa.

Airlines are responsible for notifying passengers about flight cancellations. But if they cancel a flight 24 hours before the ETD, they are not liable to give you any of the incentives just mentioned.

However, you can reimburse the full value of your fare if the cancellation is done for security purposes or if it’s caused by an act of God.


6. Off-loaded, delayed, lost, or damaged baggage

If a delayed flight is stressful, imagine the stress of having no clue where your luggage is. Take note that an airline must deliver your baggage within an hour from your time of arrival. Meanwhile, a baggage is considered lost if it hasn’t turned up seven days after its supposed time of delivery.

For every 24 hours your baggage is delayed, you must be compensated with P2,000, and you must be refunded with your checked baggage fees if it isn’t delivered within 24 hours since the arrival of your flight.

Let’s say your baggage finally arrives after a mix-up with a flight to Taiwan. The airline has apologized but you realize that your baggage has been damaged. In this case, or when your baggage is lost, you must be compensated accordingly.

For international flights, the relevant convention applies; for domestic flights, your compensation is still based on the amount specified in the relevant convention.

Sometimes, airlines off-load baggage for operational, safety, and security purposes. If this happens to you, the airline must explain the reason for the off-loading, plus they have to guarantee your baggage will be carried in the next flight.


7. Death or injury

In the unfortunate event of death or injury while on board, you will be compensated according to the guidelines set for international or domestic flights. Different guidelines may also apply if you availed a life insurance package when you booked your flight.

8. Compensation

Sometimes you just want to get paid for all the trouble you didn’t ask for. Airlines must make compensation readily available at their airport counters on the same day the mishap occurs. The airline may either give you a check, cash, or a document that is convertible to cash within 15 days from the date of the incident.