Airline ordered to pay P500K in ‘damages’ for overbooking

By John Rey Saavedra

July 10, 2023, 9:28 pm

<p>Cebu's 6th District Provincial Board Member Glenn Soco. <em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

Cebu's 6th District Provincial Board Member Glenn Soco. (PNA file photo)

CEBU CITY – Mandaue City regional trial court has ordered Cebu Pacific Air to pay PHP500,000 in damages to a provincial official who was bumped off from his scheduled flight from Manila to Cebu.

Mandaue City’s RTC Branch 55 Presiding Judge Ferdinand Rafanan ordered Cebu Pacific Air to pay Cebu's (6th District) Provincial Board Member Glenn Soco moral damages of PHP200,000, exemplary damages of PHP200,000, and PHP100,000 attorney’s and litigation expenses.

The order stemmed from a 12-year-old case filed by Soco against the airline for “breach of obligation to transport him,” which he claimed had caused him inconvenience, serious anxiety, physical suffering and sleepless night.

In his complaint, Soco alleged that on April 14, 2011, he booked a Cebu-Manila roundtrip ticket.

“His (Soco) Cebu-Manila flight was Flight 5J 574 on April 15, 2011, and was supposed to board Flight 5J 553 on April 16, 2011, at 10:10 o’clock in the morning for his return flight back to Cebu. His ticket for the flight was confirmed. He arrived at NAIA Terminal 3 and queued in the line for departing passengers. He showed his ticket to one of the ground personnel for him to get a seat number,” the 13-page court decision dated June 20, 2023, said.

However, Soco was informed by the ground crew that he could no longer be accommodated in the supposed flight and when he asked for clarification while he was staying on the line, many passengers were “egging him to step aside” so that they can continue with the queue.

“The chaotic scene humiliated the plaintiff and he was allegedly able to capture it in his cellphone camera,” the court said.

Aside from humiliation, Soco failed to miss his board meetings. Soco was then the owner of Mandaue Integrated Manpower Services Inc., Coffee Dream Company, Powerline Human Resources Management Inc.

The decision said Ivan Henry Gaw, Cebu Pacific Air’s guest service manager, confirmed that Soco was not able to board because at the time he presented for check-in at the counter, “the system of the defendant airline showed full capacity and he can no longer be accommodated for the flight.”

“In situations like this, the standard policy of the defendant airline is to look for other passengers who are willing to volunteer their seats in lieu of other passengers with confirmed tickets and could no longer be accommodated. Otherwise, the passenger will be offered an option to either take the subsequent flight or be given a refund,” it said.

The airline official said Civil Aeronautics Board Economic Regulation No. 7 recognizes the practice of airline companies on overbooking that does not exceed 10 percent of the aircraft’s seating capacity. (PNA)