CAB adopts rules to protect passengers during long flight delays, disruptions

MANILA — New rules regarding the deplaning of passengers of aircraft held at tarmac for at least two hours is expected to take effect mid-September 2016, a move aimed at addressing recent issues wherein passengers were held inside planes for long period due to flight delays and diversions.

A soft copy of Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Resolution 49, which the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said is expected to be published in a major daily starting August 31, 2016 was sent to journalists Tuesday and it states that air carriers “are under obligation to assure the comfort and convenience of passengers on board the aircraft, not only while in flight, but also during lengthy tarmac delays of any course, including flight diversions.”

It explained that after consulting with the public and stakeholders, the Board decided to adopt certain rules that would cover all planes that are in the Philippines during the time of the delay or diversion “to mitigate passenger discomfort during such lengthy tarmac delays.”

It requires the Pilot-in-Command (PIC) to deplane passengers if the aircraft has been at the tarmac for two hours.

“In no case shall deplaning of passengers exceed three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flight, upon closing of aircraft doors or upon landing with the doors closed,” it said.

However, certain circumstances were identified as reasons that are not covered by these rules, which include: when the PIC has determined that there is safety and security-related reasons, when the Air Traffic Control advised the PIC that deplaning passengers will disrupt airport operations and when the PIC receives an advice that the plane can depart within 30 minutes after the two-hour threshold period.

While the aircraft is at the tarmac, plane carriers are directed to ensure that the passengers have enough food and water, which will be given not later than the two-hour threshold “unless there are safety or security constraints that would preclude such service.”

The carrier are also required to ensure that all flights have operable lavatory facilities, ready medical attention , and adequate resources to implement the plan, which should be coordinated with airport authorities.

The Resolution said the PIC should also inform the passengers 30 minutes after the scheduled departure or arrival time about the delay and the reasons for the delay. These information should be given every 30 minutes after the first announcement, it said.

If the passengers were deplaned, the aircraft carrier are required to ensure that the passengers are given “practicable accommodation”, food and communication services.

A point person must also be identified by the aircraft carrier to answer queries from the passengers, who in turn should be updated of the situation.

The airlines should also make prior coordination with the authorities such as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) of any deplaning or disembarkation procedures. Joann Santiago/PNA/