Elizabeth Mireya Freidenberg LL.B.1967. LLM. 1973. She is a graduate of the University of Buenos Aires Law School and has a master in Air Law of the Argentine Air Force Institute of Air and Space Law.
In a recent Federal Civil and Commercial Court 2 case, the plaintiffs filed a complaint for damages for a rescheduled flight after a mandatory mediation hearing ended without a settlement. However, the court found that the change of flight schedule had complied with civil aviation and consumer rules. As a result, it rejected the claim and imposed legal costs on the losing party.
It is not unusual for immigration authorities to pursue airlines for infringements of the passenger documentation requirements which travellers must meet in order to enter a country. Argentina is no exception and the Immigration Authority (DNM) has been incentivised to detect passenger documentation infringements and collect fines from air carriers. However, a number of recent decisions regarding the DNM's imposition of fines in such cases could mark a turning point with regard to this issue.
The Federal Court recently heard a case in which two passengers claimed damages from Aeromexico after they had been ordered to disembark an aircraft for being disruptive. The case provides an insight into the question of whether consumer protection law trumps flight security concerns.
The Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals recently overturned a first-instance decision concerning a laptop lost on an Aeromexico flight from New York to Buenos Aires. The first-instance court had ordered Aeromexico to pay damages, but the appeal court found that the model of the lost laptop had never been sold in Argentina and that the plaintiff had neither proved that her laptop had been packed in her luggage nor made her claim in a timely manner.
A federal court recently dismissed a lawsuit against El Al Israel Airlines which had been filed by an Argentine passenger based on a lack of jurisdiction as set out by Article 33 of the Montreal Convention. The court examined the different hypothesis described by Article 33 and found that the claimant had failed to file a lawsuit against El Al before the courts where it was domiciled or had its principal place of business, where the contract had been made or before the courts of the claimant's planned destination.
Carriers' commitment to travel at certain times implies a duty of extreme diligence to respect the terms of their offer and such commitment is essential to those who use their services. A first-instance court recently declared that Qatar Airways breached its transport contract and the obligations to its passengers following the delay and cancellation of one of its flights from Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires.
In the context of deregulating the aviation sector and attracting low-cost carriers, the Ministry of Transportation recently issued Resolution 656/2018, which allows domestic carriers to charge any fare that they wish under certain circumstances. Before this resolution, domestic carriers could charge no lower than the Civil Aviation Authority threshold.
A recent National Commercial Court decision has set a favourable precedent for the aviation industry in Argentina. The court ordered the application of international conventions rather than local law and federal jurisdiction instead of commercial national jurisdiction. This application of international conventions by the Argentine courts is important, as it establishes the limited liability that is generally overlooked by domestic legislation.
A passenger filed a claim against Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA for a breach of contract after her non-stop flight to Europe was modified due to overbooking. The claimant argued that the defendant had fraudulently failed to fulfil its obligations. The Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals rejected the punitive damages awarded by the first-instance court, but increased and maintained compensation for moral and material damages, respectively.
Under Resolution 706-E/2017, airlines must inform the Argentine National Civil Administration (ANAC) of how they will reimburse the discrepancy in airport fees paid by passengers who bought tickets in 2016 and travelled on or after January 1 2017, when a fee reduction was introduced. Most of the affected airlines have now proposed ways to comply with the resolution, which should avoid summary proceedings by ANAC for non-compliance.
Two Argentine consumer associations recently filed a collective action against the majority of airlines operating in Argentina in defence of passenger rights. The claimants alleged that the carriers should reimburse the difference between the airport fee paid by passengers in 2016 when their tickets were issued for flights in 2017 and the new airport fee, which was reduced from January 1 2017.
Following the issuance of Resolution 445/16 by the Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC), the National Directorate of Air Transport was tasked with establishing a system to evaluate airlines' compliance with their flight schedules. The aim is to increase air transportation efficiency for passengers and provide the ANAC with additional tools to evaluate the performance of scheduled carriers.
A number of aviation regulations were issued in Argentina in 2016, including an executive decree to protect claims arising due to the provision of insufficient or misleading information to passengers, consignors or consignees regarding the conditions of an air transportation contract. Further, Resolution 113/16 adopts the internationally recognised system of equal treatment between operators and does not give priority to any carrier, which was not previously the case.
The crew of a commercial airline invited a VIP passenger into the cockpit for the duration of a scheduled flight. The first-instance court decided that the crew and passenger should be charged under Article 190 of the Criminal Code, as their behaviour had violated safety regulations and posed a threat to the security of the aircraft, passengers and cargo and third parties on the ground, even though no harm had been caused.
The Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) recently issued a regulation modifying and deleting previous dispositions. Resolution 445/06 states that non-compliance with ANAC-approved schedules for scheduled carriers will be subject to fines only if the carrier delays a flight without providing the required ancillary services to passengers. If the carrier has no other option than to delay a flight, no fines will be imposed so long as the carrier complies with its obligations to passengers.
The First Chamber of the Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals' ruling against two passengers who claimed to have missed their flight because of overbooking sets a good precedent, as this is a common defence for passengers in Argentina who arrive late to the airport. The court ruled that in accordance with Ministry of Economy, Public Works and Services Resolution 1532/98, the carrier had had the right to apply its no-show policy to the passengers.
New Law 27,196 has made the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease and access to gluten-free food a matter of national interest. The law sets out the institutions, including airlines, which must offer at least one gluten-free item. It is unclear whether the law applies to domestic carriers only, but it appears that if a passenger requests a gluten-free meal when making a booking, it must be supplied if the flight departs from Argentina.
The Civil Aviation Authority recently published a provision which amends the procedures and requirements for the approval of special or non-scheduled flights. Approval is conditional on the carrier filing the reasons for the extraordinary petition, along with supporting information and registration, airworthiness, operator and insurance certificates.
A Civil Aviation Authority resolution was recently passed that establishes a national plan for responding to aviation emergencies. The plan aims to set out the measures required to assist victims and families of aviation accidents and to compile operational and technical information relating to these events for national and foreign authorities and the media.
A new government agency to provide air navigation services was recently established. EASA is part of the Ministry of the Interior and Transportation and will provide its services for commercial and civil navigation. The agency will be governed by the legal norms and principles of private enterprise and its employee contracts will be governed by labour law.
Two new regulations were recently issued in Argentina regarding airport fees. The first regulation establishes fees that passengers must pay for regional and international flights and connections, while the second regulation sets a new security fee. Airlines, airport concessionaires and the relevant authorities are working on the implementation of the new regulations.
American Airlines recently filed an injunction action requesting the Federal Court to revoke a National Administration of Civil Aviation decision which imposed a fine for allegedly operating a non-approved scheduled flight. American Airlines claimed that the first-instance decision was based on arguments of the federal district attorney which, in its view, were erroneous.
A joint resolution was recently issued by the Argentine Tax Agency, the National Immigration Directorate, the National Administration of Civil Aviation and the Aeronautical Police. The resolution aims to control safety and risks in the commercial aviation sector, and introduce measures to prevent conflict, terrorism and threats to aviation and to combat drug and human trafficking.
A mandatory mediation procedure under a certified mediator is a condition precedent for bringing a complaint in court where a claimant alleges damages under – or non-compliance with – the terms and conditions of the Aeronautical Code, as well as cases triggered by the Warsaw Convention. The system has proved to be effective in reducing legal fees for airlines and offering new ways to avoid the courts.
The Central Bank recently issued a communication on the sale of international airline tickets and tickets for tourist services in Argentina or abroad to a non-Argentinian resident, which restricts the methods of payment for such tickets. If the relevant conditions are not met, any amount resulting from such sales will not be permitted for referral abroad. This raises concerns for international carriers operating in Argentina.
A complaint filed by two passengers against American Airlines and Aerovias de Mexico – seeking compensation for the late delivery of their luggage and for alleged missing items – has been rejected by the first-instance court. The court noted that no documentation had been provided by the plaintiffs to prove the loss of the alleged missing items, nor had they claimed in due time.
The Federal Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals recently confirmed a first instance court decision denying a passenger's request for compensation following the cancellation of his flight without sufficient prior warning. The court found that a legal solution was unreachable since the applicable laws did not include a solution for cancellation cases, only covering liability issues when a delay occurs.
The Court of Appeals recently increased the material damages awarded in a case concerning a complaint filed by two professional tango dancers against Lan Airlines seeking indemnity or compensation for a two-day delay in the delivery of their bags following cancellation of their flight due to bad weather. The court held that the evidence revealed a higher economic loss due to the cancelled performances.
Two recent decisions regarding a dispute over an alleged surcharge on an airline ticket fare have produced opposing conclusions on the jurisdiction applicable to such cases - one argued for state jurisdiction, and the other for federal jurisdiction. These rulings demonstrate that even 45 years after the creation of the Aeronautical Code, court jurisdiction regarding aeronautical matters has yet to be settled.
An airline was recently ordered to pay Ps12,000 (approximately $3,000) in compensation to a passenger for the loss of his baggage. In a rather unusual sentence, the judge did not apply the Montreal Additional Protocol 2 to the Warsaw Convention. The airline attempted to appeal the decision, but the appeal was rejected based on a procedural exception contained in the Civil and Commercial Procedural Code.
The recovery period for damages brought under Article 35 of the Montreal Convention 1999 is two years. However, in Argentina, the statute of limitation set forth in Article 35 may be interrupted, delayed or postponed through the Mediation Law. Under the law, a mediation hearing called by claimants to recover damages based on the convention may cause the time limitation to be suspended under certain conditions.
The Federal Court of Appeals on Contentious and Administrative Matters recently modified the penalty imposed by the National Directorate of Internal Commerce on VRG Linhas Aereas. The court stated that whenever specific aviation legislation governs a fact under review, it will prevail over general or domestic legislation.
On June 1 2011 Law 26.683 was passed before Congress. Under the law, airlines that act as customs agents have been withdrawn from the scope of Resolution 39/2011, as issued by the Unit for Financial Information (UFI) earlier this year. Thus, airlines are no longer subject to requests from the UFI regarding suspicious activities linked to money laundering or for the prevention of terrorism.
Resolution 79/2010 of the Regulatory Body for the National Airport System was recently published in the Official Gazette. The resolution instructs Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 SA to implement the assignment of parking positions on airport ramps. Pursuant to the resolution, the assignment of 29 parking positions for Class C aircraft has been changed in accordance with the new layout of the City of Buenos Aires Jorge Newbery Airport.
National Civil Aviation Authority Resolution 764 was recently published in the Official Gazette. The new resolution changes the procedure for requesting approval of scheduled, non-scheduled and special flights. Among other things, it states that petitions to obtain approval of such flights must be made before the Civil Aviation Authority.
The Supreme Court recently revoked an Administrative Court of Appeals ruling and held that the constitutional guarantee to two instances of appeal does not apply to decisions of administrative bureaux, but only to decisions in criminal cases. Immigration Authority decisions are subject to two instances of appeal under both the Federal Immigrations Law 25871 and the National Civil Procedures Code.
The Court of Appeals recently decided that shipper Bioimplant SA had to pay carrier Fedex the amounts that the latter had paid to Customs in fines and export tax along with interest, legal expenses and fees, following an inaccurate declaration on the air waybill of a shipment of pacemakers between Argentina and Ireland.
Argentine law provides for litigation without costs in both civil and commercial proceedings. This process allows plaintiffs that lack financial resources access to the courts. If a plaintiff is not granted litigation without costs, the rule is that the losing party pays. However, what is the situation if a plaintiff loses in court, but has been granted litigation without costs?
The Unit for Financial Information (UFI) recently published Resolution 39/2011, which establishes the measures that all registered importers, exporters and customs transport agents must observe in relation with the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The UFI later postponed the resolution's application for 180 days, to allow the Argentine Congress time to discuss it further.