Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday appealed to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to hold Philippine Airlines (PAL) to a higher set of standards, saying as the country’s flag carrier, its services need to demonstrate integrity.
During the plenary debate on the proposed 2024 budget of the DOTr on November 13, 2023, Cayetano lamented the growing number of complaints about the airline’s dysfunctional seats, sudden changes in flight details without prior notification to passengers, and the “arbitrary” removal of passengers from overbooked flights.
“When you’re carrying the name of the Philippines, (you should be) just like Singapore (Airlines) na until the end they follow (the principle) that everything about the Singapore government is integrity,” he said. Singapore Airlines, voted one of the best airlines in the world in 2023, is majority-owned by Temasek Holdings, which is the Singapore government’s investment and holding company.
Cayetano urged the DOTr to come up with specific criteria that PAL must meet in the next 18 months, otherwise the title should be up for grabs by other local airlines.
“There has to be an ultimatum with them (PAL) that if they want to be a flag carrier, there’s a certain standard that they have to follow,” he said.
Bristling at the practice of randomly removing passengers from overbooked flights, Cayetano suggested the use of incentives and disincentives. His idea is to make it financially “painful” for PAL to overbook and make it beneficial for the airline to be efficient.
“If the regulators or people overseeing them make sure na masakit sa kanila to overbook, then it will become not a matter of kindness to them but a matter of a business decision,” he said.
Cayetano suggested that PAL be obligated to refund payments to passengers unable to board due to overbooking, along with providing a complimentary ticket for another flight.
Committee on Public Services Chair Senator Grace Poe, who presented to the floor DOTr’s proposed budget, said she shared Cayetano’s frustration over the issues.
She said PAL, bearing the Philippines’ name, actually enjoys certain privileges such as more slots and limitless overbooking.
He said limiting overbooking to just one or two seats will also “prevent people from filing suit against them (PAL) dahil nga na-offload sila or na-cancel ang flights nila.”
The independent senator said he believes with the right resources, motivation, and aircraft, PAL can provide customer service of quality at par with the best in the world.
Cayetano clarified that he wants PAL’s finances “to also be healthy” and said the matter should be left to the proper authorities. He said he will also take up the matter with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as these are also consumer protection issues.###