A THREE-legged stool needs, by definition, three legs. It is useless if it only has two.
This is a metaphor for the consumer protection environment. To understand what is really going on, we need inputs from the service provider, the government entity which has authority over the service, and consumers who have been impacted, perhaps even wronged, by the service provider.
Unfortunately, what often happens is that it is only the service provider and the government entity which have a dialogue. The consumer experience is not fully understood by the government agency. This is regrettable and prevents the government representative from doing its job properly.
This applies to three arenas where there is some semblance of consumer protection provided by the government. These arenas are banking, insurance, and air travel.
Since the Cebu Pacific (CEB) experience is current, I shall focus on air travel.
On May 2 and 6, CEB had meetings with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to discuss CEB’s recent flight cancellations. CAB found that CEB handled passenger concerns properly in compliance with the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights, produced jointly by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2012, addresses some of the issues affecting airlines and their passengers. The Bill of Rights recognizes that there is an asymmetrical relationship between the air carrier and the passenger attempts to create a mechanism which causes passengers to receive fair treatment under the sometimes difficult circumstances that can arise.
I am interested in Section 19 of the Bill of Rights. This states that air carriers shall submit a monthly report to the CAB on the number of regular and promotional fare passengers who have been denied boarding, or whose flights were delayed or cancelled.
Do airlines comply with their requirement?
CEB is often described as a ‘low cost carrier.’ In practice I believe this means that its scheduling is tight and is substantially dependent on its aircraft always being available (no unplanned maintenance) and crew always turning up on time. Similarly, it is dependent on airports providing the necessary ground services promptly. Even extraneous factors need to co-operate. No typhoons allowed.
A consequence of a tight schedule is, of course, that if for any reason, there is slippage, it is very difficult to return to on-time performance.
CEB is somewhat hard-nosed when it comes to passenger relations where things go awry. Passengers are used to pushy texts saying that due to ‘flight disruption’ (whatever that means) you need to travel in the middle of the night rather than the early evening flight that you have bought and paid for.
This happened to one family member in November 2017. Was the fact that passengers were seriously inconvenienced transmitted in the monthly report to CAB?
Was any report submitted to CAB?
CAB has ordered CEB to submit within 30 days a concrete plan detailing corrective measures in its operations to prevent further inconvenience to passenger.
This plan should be made public.
Furthermore CAB should invite feedback from passengers.
Otherwise CEB will simply return to its overly tight schedule./PN