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Know the full details of budget plane fares.

Budget airlines are making it easier for Filipinos to fly to local and international destinations. But passengers are sometimes caught by surprise that amenities they have taken for granted have to be paid for-if they fly budget.

On a recent trip to Tacloban City, for instance, I tried to avail myself of Cebu Pacific's (CEB) online check-in service to avoid the long lines at the airport counter.

Logging on to CEB's website, I found that there was already a seat assigned to me. There were many vacancies so I tried to change seats. But I was still being charged, though I was not getting a first-row seat.

Confused because online check-in was supposed to be free, I asked and received an explanation from Paterno S. Mantaring, CEB officer-in-charge of corporate affairs. He said that while online check-in was indeed free, charges are incurred if the system's pre-arranged seat is changed, or if the passenger selects a different seat number.

So, for those availing the online check-in for your flight but want a choice of seats, be ready to pay extra for that convenience.

Excess luggage fees

Fortunately, though, failure to understand the fine print of budget travel cost me less than P300.

Maria Socorro Llamas paid almost the regular price of a plane ticket for excess baggage when she flew by Air Asia to Hyderabad, India, via Kuala Lumpur, and back.

Llamas said that, aside from advanced booking seat charges, she and her traveling companion had to pay P7,600 for checked-in luggage from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad.

But the return trip was costlier. Anticipating they would be coming home with a lot of stuff, Llmas asked her secretary to call Air Asia's Manila office and pay for the excess baggage here. She (the secretary) was assured that 480 rupees for India to Malaysia and another 480 for Malaysia to the Philippines could be paid in India, Llamas said.

But at the airport in India, they were charged P14,440 ($240) for 16 kilos of excess baggage. In Malaysia, they were charged another P32,412.96, which included the 40 kilos they thought they already paid for when they left Manila, plus 16 kilos more.

Llamas, after being told that what they paid for when they left was only for the trip from Clark airport to Hyderabad wrote a formal complaint.

Responding to the complaint- through Civil Aeronautics Board chair Carmelo L. Arcilla and legal division chief Wyrlou E. Samodio-Anna Rosario V. Paner and Mary Rose Grace S. Donato-Lim of the law firm Paner, Hosaka and Ypil, representing Air Asia Berhad (AAB), said that fare charged by a budget carrier was only for the flight. Add-ons like baggage, meals and preferred seats have to be paid for.

The lawyers pointed out that passengers may avail of discounted rates for checked-in baggage if they paid for excess luggage at the time of booking or up to four hours prior to departure.

For pre-book baggage, a minimum of 20 kilograms for international flights may be purchased at first instance or subsequently upgraded up to 40 kilograms, they said.

Paner and Lim said Llamas paid for 20 kilos of baggage allowance for her and her companion for Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad and vice versa. The allowance was later increased to 40 kilos, which the passenger paid for.

But the lawyers noted that, on the flight back from Hyderabad, the passengers' luggage exceeded by 16 kilos what was paid for 80 kilos. Hence, the additional charges.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail lbolido@inquirer.com.ph
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Oct 7, 2015
Words:613
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