In 2019 a number of airlines challenged fines issued by the Immigration Authority (DNM) – in particular, fines relating to an entrance tax imposed on US, Canadian and Australian citizens. A number of recent court decisions revoked such fines and may lead the way towards a new conceptual approach by the Argentine courts regarding the fines that the DNM regularly, and often incorrectly, imposes on airlines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the introduction of several new resolutions in Argentina. For example, on 12 March 2020, in a general agreement of ministers, the president decreed a state of public emergency for one year and on 19 March 2020 a number of social, preventive and mandatory isolation measures were established. This article examines the effects of COVID-19 on the Argentine aviation industry.
Federal Civil and Commercial Court 2 recently dismissed a damages claim against Aeromexico brought by two passengers for the rescheduling of their flights. The court found that the decision to reschedule the relevant flights had been approved by the Argentine Aviation Authority and that the plaintiffs had been informed of the rescheduled flights in a correct, clear and detailed way.
On 23 December 2019 a 30% tax on services hired abroad by travel agencies located in Argentina was introduced. The fact that the new tax applied the day after its introduction created chaos for air companies as non-compliance can trigger fines with interest. The Argentine Tax Authority recently introduced a resolution to address the lack of clarity surrounding the collection of the new tax, but it will take time for carriers to implement the measures required to comply with the new regulations.
The Immigration Authority (DNM) repeatedly imposes substantial fines on carriers. Despite the fact that in many cases these fines have been wrongly imposed, airlines must pay any outstanding fines in order to file a judicial complaint against the DNM, so the fines are widely viewed as another cost of operating in Argentina. That said, a number of airlines have recently challenged the DNM's fines and the courts have given a clear sign that, even with the above difficulties, it is worth challenging this legal loophole.
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.