PREDATORY AIRFARES HIT

PASSENGERS await their respective flights at Iloilo Airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo. Airlines are under fire for their purported airfare system. (FAA)

AN ILONGGO congressman questioned the purported prohibitive and erratic ticket prices of major airlines in the country, particularly those bought days before or on the day of the scheduled flight.

In a hearing conducted by the House Committees on Trade and Industry and Transportation on May 17, 2017, Rep. Ferjenel Biron (Iloilo, 4th district) recounted his experience when he checked the published fares of Philippine Airline and Cebu Pacific Air for a one-way trip from Manila to Iloilo.

Biron said that when he inquired the fares on May 16, a one-way trip cost P2,000. But when he again checked the following day, the airfares shot up to P8,000 to P10,000.

“There’s no more ‘Every Juan Can Fly.’ Kawawa na si Juan dela Cruz,” he said during the committee hearing.

Biron said congressmen are not complaining about the prohibitive fares “but what about those who cannot afford?”

The May 17 hearing was triggered by House Resolution No. 267 which Biron filed early this month to find out the pricing mechanism and regulations for airlines.

Biron, a medical doctor and a businessman, chairs the House Committee on Trade and Industry.

Leyte Rep. Vincent Veloso also raised the issue of the wide difference in airfares in adjacent destinations like their province and nearby Cebu.

Veloso said his wife noticed in January 2017 that the one-way fare to Leyte costs around P9,000 while flying to Cebu will only cost P2,000, more or less.

Carmelo Arcilla, executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), said they cannot regulate airfares and they have not received any complaints about disparities in the fares.

Arcilla said the common complaints they received from passengers is implementation of the condition of carriages such as forfeiture and non-rebooking.

Biron said CAB’s answer highlights the lack of an accountability or complaint mechanism for passengers.

“Passengers don’t know where to file their complaints. The only recourse of an ordinary passenger is to go to the airline and say, ‘Your fares are too expensive’,” he added.

Biron lamented that the aviation industry under the liberalized regime has led to the boom in low-cost carriers but their services remain sub-par.

The hearing has led to the creation of a technical working group which will determine if there is a need to regulate airfares.

Congressmen also warned airline firms that their franchises will be in jeopardy if they don’t improve their services.

PAL and Cebu Pacific have yet to issue comments on the matter.

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