Flying 101: Things you didn't know about airlines

Shielo Mendoza
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

The talk of the town (yes, the Santiago-Tulfo brouhaha) all started with a supposedly poor airline service.

So to avoid a similar incident, Yahoo! Southeast Asia sought the help of Ms. Peggy Vera, a retired airline executive with more than 40 years of experience and who now remains a consultant for aviation matters.

Here are basic know-hows any airline passenger should keep in mind:
The curious case of the missing baggage
Let’s start off with Claudine’s problem. According to reports, Tulfo spotted the actress reprimanding a Cebu Pacific flight attendant about her luggage which was said to be carried in a different flight.
Vera clarified that airlines are not really obliged to carry the checked-in baggage on the same flight as the passenger. Airlines can decide to carry the baggage in an alternative flight, usually the next, for safety or operational reasons.
She added that airlines use the terms “best efforts” and “reasonable dispatch” when they are able to carry the checked baggage on the same flight as the passenger’s.
Whenever checked baggage is not on the same flight as the passenger, the airline must still deliver the baggage.
Vera noted that if the baggage is actually lost, the passenger may make a claim with the airline. In Cebu Pacific, passengers may demand from P40 per kilo of damaged baggage and P100 per kilo of lost baggage or higher.
While it is not the responsibility of the airline, Vera said it can ease the inconvenience by always letting the passenger know the possibility of baggage offloading.
She suggested that airport personnel should list down the tag numbers of the baggage offloaded to be posted prominently at the baggage carousels on arrival.
“This way, the passenger doesn’t have to wait until the last baggage is out before knowing that his baggage was left behind,” she said.
Delayed or canceled flights: The ‘unfairest’ of them all
Vera said a delayed or canceled flight is the most unfavorable hitch for any passenger.
Airlines require a strict punctuality from passengers. They must check in at least 45 minutes before the flight and be at the boarding gate 30 minutes before the scheduled departure.
If any of these timings are not complied with, the passenger may be refused boarding, but his passage shall be considered “flown” without any refund or travel fund entitlement.
Also, a passenger may cancel a reservation only if it’s more than four hours before the flight otherwise his ticket is considered “flown.” 
But ironically, an airline may cancel, terminate, or delay any flight at any time after a passenger has made a reservation on that that flight without the airline having any liability to the passenger, said Vera.
What’s worse, the window for getting a full refund or of being able to rebook on another flight without any penalty is very narrow, she said.
Vera also pointed out that the airline’s standard defense for these incidents is that they are caused by “force majeure” which literally translates to “a superior force.”
Essentially, it means that it is not the airline’s fault so it excuses itself from any obligations to the passenger. Delays or cancellations due to weather or government actions such as airport closure are considered force majeure.
Vera said in such cases, the passenger will most likely receive a “travel fund,” a means by which the airline avoids giving an actual refund, but allows the passenger to use the exact value of the ticket for another flight.
“While force majeure is a legitimate excuse, there are many things an airline can do to show their concern for their passengers,” she added.
She proposed that if passengers have checked in and are holding their boarding passes when their flight got delayed until mealtime, the airline should provide simple snacks to ease their inconvenience.
Promo fares: You get what you pay for?

Vera said promo fares refer to discounted fares that have limited applicability which aim to generate traffic for specific routes and on specific seasons.
“Airline promos have stimulated traffic growth very much so. There is congestion in the airports because airport development has not been able to keep up with the traffic growth,” she explained, adding that this could lead to customer dissatisfaction.
“I think that the saddest part of this growth in traffic that has been brought about by the airlines low and promo fares is that there are now so many passengers that the airlines have become less solicitous and a bit more, for lack of a better word, arrogant,” Vera added.
Vera stressed that whether a passenger availed of a regular or a discounted ticket price, nobody deserves to be given inadequate service.

“In general, consider the passenger’s circumstances and step out of the rules when the airline can, and always with a warm and caring attitude to ease their inconvenience,” she added.

Editor's note: Do you have a bad airline experience? How did you deal with it? Share it with us via the comments section.