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Delayed flights? Got offloaded? Know your rights as air traveler

Delayed flights? Got offloaded? Know your rights as air traveler


On our first trip since the pandemic, the multiple delays totaled nearly 36 hours; the lack of transparency and the staff’s inability to give satisfactory solutions led to much confusion and frustration

By Nastasha Verayo De Villa

“When we get to Narita, let’s not dilly-dally,” my husband told me half in jest, recalling the last time we traveled before COVID, in 2019, when Typhoon “Faxai” made landfall in Japan shortly after our plane did, effectively grounding all subsequent flights that day and causing road closures as well as a halt in train operations.

Our decision to take our time with breakfast (oblivious to the brewing catastrophe) cost us our chance to slip out, and resulted in us spending the night on the floor at Narita among the multitude of other stranded passengers.

Little did we know that three years later, on our first trip since the pandemic (also the first international flight for our 2-year-old son), we would be in for a worse fate—this time, we couldn’t even get out of the Philippines to begin with. The multiple delays totaled nearly 36 hours. The announcement for the second delay came less than half an hour before our scheduled flight, and the third came as another unpleasant surprise just as we’d finally accepted the additional 12-hour holdup.

Prior to this incident, we never had problems with Jetstar. In fact, it was the airline that got us safely to Narita in 2019. On our trip last February, the lack of transparency with regards to the cause of the disruptions and the staff’s inability to give satisfactory solutions and promises of fair compensation for the time, energy and resources wasted led to much confusion and frustration.

We were eventually given the options of staying at a hotel to rest before the new departure schedule, canceling our flight or booking with another airline on our dime (but to be reimbursed after seven days). Beyond that, however, the supervisor could not promise us anything but urged us to send them an email regarding our complaints.

We were later told that the reason for the delays were crewing requirement; specifically, some of their crew members were flagged for having exceeded their log hours back in Tokyo and then again in Manila. In short, it was something that was avoidable and should have been within the airline’s control.

Passenger rights

Fatigued and traumatized, we refused to get our hopes up until our feet touched Japanese soil. Even after boarding, and even as we were already in the air, we held our breath for anything that could go wrong. For all we know, the plane could still turn around and bring us all back to Manila.

We were given snacks prior to the flight but we lost the meal for our toddler that we purchased together with our tickets. We also lost time to meet up with more friends and do more on our vacation. On the upside, we finally got to our first hotel at 10 p.m. that same day.

To their credit, when we forwarded our complaints to Jetstar, detailing our flight story, they were quick to respond and study the evidence. There was a bit of a push and pull, with them questioning our demands and us having to defend them, but we were eventually able to come to a satisfactory agreement.

The Philippines has an Air Passenger Bill of Rights (APBR) that protects travelers from such circumstances as flight disruptions and damaged or lost baggage. However, not everyone knows about them or how to wield its power.

According to the APBR, the passenger has three major rights: to be provided accurate information before purchase; to receive the full value of the service purchased; and to be compensated.

Created in 2012 as a response to airlines’ failure to publish the conditions and restrictions back then, it nevertheless covers an array of air passenger issues, its rules a hodgepodge of consumer laws, said Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) deputy executive director Maria Elben Moro.

Maria Elben Moro

With the advent of APBR, the CAB became a bridge between airlines and passengers. “Of course, the air passengers can also raise their concerns with the airlines directly, but they can also do so with the help of the CAB.”

Moro said there are passenger rights action officers (PRAOs) stationed at the departure area of 31 Philippine airports whom passengers experiencing problems with their airlines may approach to address complaints. (CAB may also be reached via their hotline 16566; tel. 88537259; email

“Usually, PRAOs talk with the terminal managers of the airline to address the issues,” Moro said. “Issues usually get resolved onsite. Otherwise, the complaints reach us for a full-blown investigation.”


The CAB provides the venue for the airlines and the passengers to meet. The parties will be asked to provide proof. At the very least, the airlines will be required to answer.

Moro said complaints should be filed as early as possible, detailing the scenario as completely as possible. This will make the investigation easier and quicker as the data needed for the investigation (like CCTV footage) would likely still be available.

And even as the passenger has already talked with the airline, if they find the response lacking, they can still elevate the issue to the CAB.

“The airline industry is so different from the usual buses. We also have to understand that aviation transport is really much more complicated,” Moro said. “Sometimes, there are problems with the aircraft itself, technical problems, or sometimes it’s a safety or security issue.”

While airlines are required to be transparent with regards to the cause of flight disruptions, they are not required to be very specific lest the passengers panic. Delays and cancellations can happen for varied reasons, but generally, when flights are canceled, the airline’s basic obligation is to rebook the passenger for the next available flight, Moro said.

Delay means the time for departure just gets moved. For one- to three-hour delays, the airline should provide the passengers refreshments. For six hours and longer with the airline at fault, the passenger can consider the delay a cancellation and have the airline rebook his flight or endorse him to another carrier at no cost to the passenger, subject to availability.

Issues for review

With regards to the cause of our flight’s delay, Moro explained that the International Civil Aviation Organization is very strict with monitoring airline crew’s sleep. “They are really required to get enough rest prior to the flight for safety reasons. In cases like that, it’s due to a management problem,” she said.

Moro also said that we should still have been served the meal we purchased. “Regardless of your transfers, you should be given whatever you paid for.”

Around the same time flight cancellations made news in the country, the same was happening in the United States, albeit for unrelated reasons. US lawmakers were initially pushing for a $1,350 compensation for every four-hour delay. (The latest version of their proposed Passenger’s Bill of Rights says such amount would be awarded to passengers that have been bumped off a flight due to overbooking.)

Asked if a similar rule can be applied to the Philippines, Moro said they will have to study it. So far, she added, all we have are vouchers for snacks. “If we amend the APBR, it has to go through public consultation as it did before.”

See Also

Moro admits that there is a need to review the APBR, since not all scenarios are covered by what was initially drafted in 2012.

“It’s impossible to foresee all scenarios on what may be covered by the APBR. At the time, the focus was on the publication of promotional fares. But now that the passengers have become aware of the restrictions, there are other issues that also need to be addressed, like overbooking,” she said.

But if ever, it will take months of discussion to update the APBR, like when it was first drafted. “The APBR is a joint memorandum circular of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Transportation and Communications then. Consumer groups, media and members of Congress were invited to participate.”

Compensation policies

For their part, the country’s flagship carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) remains committed to improve their policies “balancing passenger-centric approaches and business requirements,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said. “This includes revising compensation policies and streamlining procedures to assist affected passengers better.”

During the airline’s celebration of its 82nd anniversary, PAL assistant vice president for customer experience Mac Munsayac said they are proactive when it comes to getting offloaded passengers in the air. “We follow the APBR of the Philippines, and we make sure the passengers are taken care of.” In a separate interview, Munsayac admitted that their current platform has “limitations in ensuring all customer complaints are closed within the acceptable timeline, especially those that require further investigation.”

Mac Munsayac

He added, “But plans are in place to enhance this aspect. The first improvement involves adding an upload function that will allow passengers to file baggage irregularity reports even when they are no longer at the airport, should they discover issues after returning home. Another work enhancement is implementing a ticketing tool to ensure all cases are resolved within the defined and agreed-upon service levels. Moreover, an automated tool for tracking and managing passenger compensation is expected to launch later this year.”

He continued: “Regarding flight disruption management, PAL is selecting a tool that will significantly improve communication regarding flight changes and provide self-service options for refunds, rebooking and conversion to travel credits. Once implemented, passengers can easily manage any unavoidable changes in flight schedules due to inclement weather, technical issues, runway traffic, or other circumstances affecting the schedule.

Proper staffing

“In addition to these improvements, PAL has secured approval for additional resources to ensure proper staffing levels for the timely resolution of customer complaints. New team members are anticipated to join by the end of April, further enhancing PAL’s ability to address customer concerns effectively.”

PAL has partnered with three global customer support providers to ensure a sufficient workforce for addressing concerns. PAL also plans to launch self-service options this year, utilizing cutting-edge technology like conversational chatbots.

With regards to baggage recovery, PAL has recently launched a platform specifically designed to handle baggage irregularity reports more effectively, Munsayac said.

“The platform allows for precise tracking and swift resolution of such issues by utilizing digitized forms. In addition, we have revised several baggage-related policies better to address passenger concerns regarding compensation and customer recovery.”

Furthermore, Munsayac gave assurances that their front-line staff has been thoroughly briefed on applicable laws to guarantee compliance with policies that protect passengers’ rights. INQ