Mercantile Law

SPS. FERNANDO v. NORTHWEST AIRLINES GR No. 212038, Feb 08, 2017 Common Carriers, Contract of Carriage


FACTS:
The spouses Jesus and Elizabeth S. Fernando (Fernandos) are frequent flyers of Northwest Airlines, Inc. and are holders of Elite Platinum World Perks Card, the highest category given to frequent flyers of the carrier.
On December 20, 2001, Jesus arrived at the LA Airport via Northwest Airlines Flight No. NW02 to join his family who flew earlier to the said place for a reunion for the Christmas holidays.

Upon presentment of his documents at the immigration counter, he was asked by the Immigration Officer to have his return ticket verified and validated since the date reflected thereon is August 2001. He approached a Northwest personnel Linda Puntawongdaycha. Jesus gave the personnel the number of his Elite Platinum World Perks Card for the latter to access the ticket control record with the airline’s computer, and then informed the Immigration Officer that the ticket is not valid because it had been used.

The Immigration Officer brought Jesus to the interrogation room of the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) where he was interrogated for more than two hours. When he was finally cleared by the Immigration Officer, he was granted only a 12-day stay in the US, instead of the usual 6 months.
On January 29, 2002, the Fernandos were on their way back to the Philippines. They have confirmed bookings on Northwest Airlinesfor Japan and Manila. They were given their respective boarding passes for business class seats and claim stubs for six pieces of luggage.
When it was announced that the plane was ready for boarding, the Fernandos joined the long queue of business class passengers along with their business associates.

At the gate area where boarding passes need to be presented, Northwest supervisor Tang stopped them and demanded for the presentation of their paper tickets. They failed to present the same since, according to them, Northwest issued electronic tickets.

Linda Tang rudely pulled them out of the queue told them that if they wanted to board the plane, they should produce their credit cards and pay for their new tickets, otherwise Northwest would order their luggage off-loaded from the plane. They rushed to the Northwest Airline Ticket counter where they were assisted by Northwest personnel Jeanne Meyer who retrieved their control number from her computer and was able to ascertain that the Fernandos’ electronic tickets were valid and they were confirmed passengers on that day. Jeanne Meyer printed coupon tickets for them who were then advised to rush back to the boarding gates since the plane was about to depart. But when the Fernandos reached the boarding gate, the plane had already departed. They were able to depart, instead, the day after.
On the other hand, Northwest personnel claimed that they did the best they could under the circumstances.
The Fernandos initiated the filing of a complaint for damages against Northwest in view of the two incidents.
The RTC issued a Decision in favor of the plaintiffs and against defendant ordering defendant to pay the plaintiffs, moral damages, actual or compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and costs of the suit.
Both parties filed their respective appeals which were dismissed by the CA, and affirmed the RTC Decision.
The Fernandos and Northwest separately filed MRs on of the Decision, both of which were denied by the CA.
The Fernandos and Northwest filed petitions for review before this court, which were consolidated.

ISSUE:

Whether or not northwest committed a breach of contract of carriage

RULING:
A contract of carriage is defined as one whereby a certain person or association of persons obligate themselves to transport persons, things, or goods from one place to another for a fixed price. Under Article 1732 of the Civil Code, this “persons, corporations, firms, or associations engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passengers or goods or both, by land, water, or air, for compensation, offering their services to the public” is called a common carrier.

Undoubtedly, a contract of carriage existed between Northwest and the Fernandos. They voluntarily and freely gave their consent to an agreement whose object was the transportation of the Fernandos from LA to Manila, and whose cause or consideration was the fare paid by the Fernandos to Northwest.

In Alitalia Airways v. CA, et al., We held that when an airline issues a ticket to a passenger confirmed for a particular flight on a certain date, a contract of carriage arises. The passenger then has every right to expect that he would fly on that flight and on that date. If he does not, then the carrier opens itself to a suit for breach of contract of carriage.

When Northwest confirmed the reservations of the Fernandos, it bound itself to transport the Fernandos on their flight on 29 January 2002. We note that the witness of Northwest admitted that based on the documents submitted by the Fernandos, they were confirmed passengers on the said flight.

In an action based on a breach of contract of carriage, the aggrieved party does not have to prove that the common carrier was at fault or was negligent.

As the aggrieved party, the Fernandos only had to prove the existence of the contract and the fact of its non-performance by Northwest, as carrier, in order to be awarded compensatory and actual damages.

Therefore, having proven the existence of a contract of carriage, and the fact of non-performance by Northwest of its obligation as a common carrier, it is clear that Northwest breached its contract of carriage with the Fernandos. Thus, Northwest opened itself to claims for compensatory, actual, moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and costs of suit.

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