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CASE: Japan Airlines vs CA | 294 SCRA 19 | August 7, 1998

Facts:
Respondents boarded JAL flights from the United States to Manila. For
choosing JAL, the airline provided an overnight all expenses paid stay to the
petitioners for their stopover at Narita.
The following day, all three respondents went to the airport to board their
flight to Manila. However, due to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo their flight was
canceled as the ashes rendered visibility difficulty. As result, JAL re-booked all the
Manila-bound passengers on JAL flight No. 741 which was to depart on June 16,
1991 and also paid for the hotel expenses of their unexpected stay.
On June 16, 1991, however, their re-booked flight was again canceled because
of NAIA’s indefinite closure. JAL then informed the respondents that they would
no longer pay for their extended stay in Narita. Respondents then paid for their
meals and hotel accommodation from their personal funds.
On June 22, 1991, NAIA reopened and the respondents boarded the JAL flight
to Manila on that day.
On July 25, 1991, they all filed an action for damages against JAL in the RTC of
Quezon City alleging that JAL failed to live up to its duty to provide care and
comfort to its stranded passengers by refusing to pay for their hotel
accommodation expenses from June 16-21.
The RTC ruled in favor of the respondents and ordered JAL to pay to them
actual, moral, and exemplary damages.
JAL appealed to the CA which decided to reduce the amount of payment for
damages. JAL filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied, hence this
petition.

Issue: Does JAL, as common carrier, have the obligation to shoulder the hotel and
meal expenses of its stranded passengers until they have reached their final
destination, even if the delay were caused by force majeure?

Held: The general rule is that when a party is unable to fulfill his obligation
because of force majeure, he cannot be held liable for damages for non-
performance. When JAL was prevented from resuming its flight to Manila due to
the effects of Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption, whatever losses or damages in the form of
hotel and meal expenses the stranded passengers incurred, cannot be charged to
JAL for their predicament was not due to the fault or negligence of JAL but NAIAI’s
closure of international flights. Furthermore, airline passengers must take such
risks incident to the mode of travel. Adverse weather conditions or extreme
climatic changes are some of the perils involved in air travel, the consequences of
which the passengers must assume or expect. After all, common carriers are not
the insurer of all risk.

However, JAL failed on its obligation to look after the comfort and convenience of
its passengers when it declassified private respondents from transit passengers to
new passengers, as result of which they were obliged to make the necessary
arrangements themselves for the next flight to Manila. They were placed on the
waiting list to assure themselves of seats on the next flight to Manila. They were
on the waiting list for 5 days and where compelled to stay in the airport the whole
day of June 22, 1991, and it was only at 8pm of the same day that they were
advised that they could be accommodated in a flight on that day which left for
Manila at 9am the next day.

Considering NAIA’s closure it would be unreasonable to expect JAL flight


operations to be normal. Nevertheless this does not excuse JAL from its obligation
to make the necessary arrangements to transport the respondents on the first
available flight to Manila. After all, it had a contract to transport private
respondents from the US-Manila as their final destination.