Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 76093 March 21, 1989
AIR FRANCE, petitioner,
THE COURT OF APPEALS AND NARCISO O. MORALES, respondents.
Siguion Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako for petitioner.
Morales & Joyas Law Office for private respondent.
This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision ** of the Court of Appeals, dated 1986, in CA-G.R. CV No. 69875, entitled "Narciso Morales vs. Air France," dismissing herein petitioner's appeal from the adverse ruling of the trial court (Branch 33, CFI of Rizal, Kalookan City) *** and the latter's denial of its motion for reconsideration. The respondent Court of Appeals likewise denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration of its decision in a resolution dated 25 September 1986.
In reviewing the records, we find:
Sometime in October 1977, private respondent Narciso Morales thru his representative, Ms. Janet Tolentino, purchased an airline ticket from Aspac Management Corporation, petitioner's General Sales Agent in Makati, for P 9,426.00 plus P 1,413.90 travel tax, of which P 413.90 were later refunded to Ms. Tolentino.
The itinerary covered by the ticket included several cities, with certain segments thereof restricted by markings of "non endorsable' and 'valid on AF (meaning Air France) only', as herein specified:
ITINERARY SPECIFIED RESTRICTIONS
New York/Paris Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Paris/Stockholm Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Frankfurt/Paris Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Paris/Geneva Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Madrid/Nice Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Nice/Rome Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Athens/Tel Aviv None
Tel Avive/Bangkok Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY
Bangkok/Manila Air France NONENDORSABLE VALID ON AF ONLY 1
While in New York, U.S.A. on 3 November 1977, private respondent Morales obtained three (3) medical certificates (Exhibits G, G-1, G-2) attesting to ear an infection which necessitated medical treatment. From New York, he flew to Paris, Stockholm and then Copenhagen where he made representations with petitioner's office to shorten his trip by deleting some of the cities in the itinerary. Respondent Morales was informed that, as a matter of procedure, confirmation of petitioner's office in Manila (as ticketing office) must be secured before shortening of the route (already paid for). Air France in Amsterdam telexed AF Manila requesting for rerouting of the passenger to Amsterdam, Hamburg, Geneva, Rome, Hongkong, Manila. 2
As there was no immediate response to the telex, respondent proceeded to Hamburg where he was informed of AF Manila's negative reply. After reiterating his need to flying home on a shorter route due to his ear infection, and presentation of supporting medical certificates, again, the airline office made the necessary request to Manila on 23 November 1977 for a Hamburg, Paris, Geneva, Rome, Paris, Hongkong and Manila route. Still, the request was denied. Despite respondent as protest and offer to pay any fare difference, petitioner did not relent in its position. Respondent, therefore, had to buy an entirely new set of tickets, paying 1,914 German marks for the homeward route, namely:
Itinerary Carrier Date Reservation
Hamburg/Frankfurt LH 26 Nov. OK (Lufthansa)
Frankfurt/Geneva SR 26 Nov. OK (Swissair)
Geneva/Rome AZ 29 Nov. OK (Alitalia)
Rome/Hongkong BA 02 Dec. OK (British Airways)
Hongkong/Manila PR Open Open (Philippine Airlines) 3
Upon arrival in Manila, respondent sent a letter-complaint to Air France dated 20 December 1977 thru Aspac Management Corporation. Respondent Morales was advised to surrender the unused flight coupons for a refund of its value, but he kept the same and, instead, filed a complaint for breach of contract of carriage and damages.
CFI Judge Marcelino Sayo found Air France in evident bad faith for violation of the contract of carriage, aggravated by the threatening attitude of its employees in Hamburg. Considering the social and economic standing of respondent, who is chairman of the board of directors of a multi-million corporation and a member of several civic and business organizations, an award of moral and exemplary damages, in addition to the actual damages incurred, was deemed proper under the circumstances. The dispositive part of the CFI decision states:
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby renders judgment for the plaintiff and orders the defendant to pay to the plaintiff the sum of 1,914 German Marks, in its equivalent in Philippine Peso, as actual damages, the sum of P 1,000,000.00 as moral damages, and the further sum of P 800,000.00 as exemplary damages, with legal interest thereon from date of the filing of the complaint until fully paid, plus the sum equal to 20% thereof as attorney's fees, with costs against the plaintiff. 4
On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the award of damages was modified as follows:
ACCORDINGLY, the judgment appealed from is hereby modified so that it will read as follows: Judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff against the defendant ordering ther defendant to pay to said plaintiff the following.
(1) 1,914 German Marks in its equivalent in Philippine peso at prevailing rate of exchange as actual damages, with legal interest thereon from the date of the filing of the complaint until fully paid;
(2) P 500,000.00, as moral damages;
(3) P 150,000.00, as exemplary damages; and
(4) 5% of the amount of actual, moral and exemplary damages which are recoverable, as attorney's fees. 5
Questioning the factual findings of the respondent court, petitioner comes to this court for review citing three (3) errors:
1. The conclusion that there is a breach of contract is premised on a misapprehension of facts.
2. Failure to apply the doctrine of avoidable consequence in the present case.
3. Award of exorbitant damages and attorney's fees.
After considering respondent's comment, the Court resolved to give due courses to the petition, and required the parties to file their respective memoranda. Complying with the resolution of 26 October 1987, private respondent filed his reply memorandum on 17 December 1987. This is the last pleading on record.
While this Court is not a trier of facts, yet, when the findings of respondent court are without citation of specific evidence on which they are based, there is sufficient reason for the Court to review the appellate court's decision. 6
The respondent court's ruling that there was breach of contract of carriage is premised on petitioner's refusal to re-route respondent and, in effect, requiring him to purchase a new set of tickets. Petitioner refutes this conclusion, claiming that the original ticket was discounted and non-endorsable on certain segments. Eventually respondent flew on his chosen route with different airlines.
Under the factual milieu, was there really a breach of contract of carriage on the part of the petitioner, as to justify the award to private respondent of actual, moral and exemplary damages? We find none.
International Air Transportation Association (IATA) Resolution No. 275 e, 2., special note reads: "Where a fare is restricted and such restrictions are not clearly evident from the required entries on the ticket, such restrictions may be written, stamped or reprinted in plain language in the Endorsement/Restrictions" box of the applicable flight coupon(s); or attached thereto by use of an appropriate notice." 7 Voluntary changes to tickets, 8 while allowable, are also covered by (IATA) Resolution No. 1013, Art. II, which provides: "1. changes to the ticket requested by the passenger will be subject to carriers regulations.
Private respondent wanted a rerouting to Hamburg, Geneva, Rome, Hongkong and Manilas 9 which shortened the original itinerary on the ticket issued by AF Manila through ASPAC, its general sales agent. Considering the original restrictions on the ticket, it was not unreasonable for Air France to deny the request.
Besides, a recurring ear infection was pleaded as reason necessitating urgent return to Manila. Assuming arguendo a worsening pain or discomfort, private respondent appears to have still proceeded to four (4) other cities covering a period of at least six (6) days and leaving open his date of departure from Hongkong to Manila.10 And, even if he claimed to have undergone medical examination upon arrival in Manila, no medical certificate was presented. He failed to even remember his date of arrival in Manila.
With a claim for a large amount of damages, the Court finds it unsual for respondent, a lawyer, to easily forget vital information to substantiate his plea. It is also essential before an award of damages that the claimant must satisfactorily prove during the trial the existence of the factual basis of the damages and its causal connection to defendant's acts.11
In KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. CA, 12 the Court observed-
.... As noted by the Court of Appeals that condition was printed in letters so small that one would have to use a magnifying glass to read the words. Under the circumstances, it would be unfair and inequitable to charge the respondents with automatic knowledge or notice of the said condition so as to preclude any doubt that it was fairly and freely agreed upon by the respondents when they accepted the passage tickets issued to them by the KLM. As the airline which issued those tickets with the knowledge that the respondents would be flown on the various legs of their journey by different air carriers, the KLM was chargeable with the duty and responsibility of specifically informing the respondents of conditions prescribed in their tickets or in the very least, to ascertain that the respondent read them before they accepted their passage tickets. A thorough search of the records, however, inexplicably fails to show that any effort was exerted by the KLM officials or employees to discharge in a proper manner this responsibility to the respondents. Consequently, We hold that the respondents cannot be bound by the provision in question by which KLM unilaterally assumed the role of a mere ticket-issuing agent for other airlines and limited its liability only to untoward occurrences on its own lines. (Emphasis supplied)
Unlike in the KLM case where the breach of contract was aggravated by the discourteous and arbitrary conduct of an official of the Aer Lingus which the KLM had engaged to transport the respondents, here. Air France employees in Hamburg informed private respondent that his tickets were partly stamped "non-endorsable" and "valid on Air France only."13 Mere refusal to accede to the passenger's wishes does not necessarily translate into damages in the absence of bad faith.14 To our mind, respondent has failed to show wanton, malevolent or reckless misconduct imputable to petitioner in its refusal to re-route.
Air France Manila acted upon the advise of ASPAC in denying private respondent's request. There was no evident bad faith when it followed the advise not to authorize rerouting.15 At worst, the situation can be considered a case of inadvertence on the part of ASPAC in not explaining the non-endorsable character of the ticket. Of importance, however, is the fact that private respondent is a lawyer, and the restriction box 16 clearly indicated the non-endorsable character of the ticket.
Omissions by ordinary passengers may be condoned but more is expected of members of the bar who cannot feign ignorance of such limitations and restrictions. An award of moral and exemplary damages cannot be sustained under the circumstances, but petitioner has to refund the unused coupons in the Air France ticket to the private respondent.
WHEREFORE, the judgement appealed from is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Petitioner is ordered, however, to refund to private respondent the value of the unused coupons in the passenger's ticket issued to him by the petitioner. No costs.
Melencio-Herrera, (Chairperson), Paras, Sarmiento and Regalado JJ., concur:
** Justice Desiderio Jurado, ponente; Justices Crisolito Pascual, Jose Campos and Serafin E. Camilon, concurring.
*** Presided by Judge Marcelino Sayo.
1 Appellant's Brief, p. 7.
2 Deposition of Mrs. R. Schaale, q. #35, p. 7, Folder of Defendants' Exhibits Original Records, CFI, Br. 33, Kalookan City.
3 Rollo, p. 26.
4 Amended Record on Appeal, p. 78.
5 Rollo, p. 67.
6 Apex Investment & Financing Corp. and Jose S.J. Villarica vs. IAC, Crown Radio Corp. Phil., G.R. No. 69723, October 18, 1988.
7 In addition, where a fare and such restrictions are not clearly evident from the required entries on the ticket, such restrictions may be written, stamped or pre-printed in plain language in the Endorsement/Restrictions' box of the applicable flight coupon(s); or attached thereto by use of an appropriate notice. In addition, where a fare is restricted to time of travel or period of validity, a special fare notice similar to that shown below, may be used:
This is a 'SPECIAL FARE' Ticket which involves travel restrictions. Certain 'Special Fares' do not permit cancellation, change of reservations or refund of full amount paid.
8 Governed by IATA Resolution No. 279.
9 Governed by General Conditions of Carriage [Passenger] changes to ticket or schedules, missed connections, changes requested by passenger.
10 Deposition Answer to Question No. 79, p. 14, Folder of Defendants' Exhibits, Original Records, CFI, Br. 33, Kaloocan City.
11 Makabali v. CA G.R. No. L-46877, January 22, 1988.
12 65 SCRA 237, G.R. No. L-31150, July 22, 1975.
13 Deposition Answer to Question No. 86, p. 17, Folder of Defendant's Exhibits, Original Records, CFI, Br. 33. Kalookan City.
14 TWA v. Court of Appeals and Rogelio Vintuan G.R. No. 78656, August 30, 1988, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. CA, July 25, 1975, 65 SCRA 237; A. Ortigas, Jr. v. Lufthansa German Airlines, June 30, 1975,64 SCRA 610; Zulueta v. Pan Am World Airways, Inc., 43 SCRA 397; Korean Airlines Co., Ltd. v. CA, G. R. No. 61416. 29 September 1987.
15 TSN, February 26, 1979, pp. 200-202.
16 Exhibits 2-A, 3-A-2. 3-B-2.
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