Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Supreme Court rules airlines must partly refund overbooked flights

Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) has ruled that airlines must partially compensate passengers denied boarding due to overbooking, regardless of the alternatives provided, as per the Civil Aviation Law.  

The SCJN’s decision means that airlines operating in Mexico must compensate passengers for at least 25% of the ticket price, irrespective of any other compensation option offered. The ruling arose from a lawsuit brought against Air France in September 2017 after a Mexican family missed a flight and its connections to various European cities due to the overbooking of tickets by the French airline. 

A volaris aircraft
Airlines in Mexico often overbook flights, leading to passengers being denied boarding and forced to reschedule, sometimes without a refund. (Volaris/Instagram)

In addition to losing its Barcelona-London and London-Mexico City flight connections, the family had to buy new tickets to replace the missed connections for a total of $51,000 pesos (US $3,000).

The local and federal courts ruled in favor of Air France before the SCJN annulled those rulings and said Article 52 was unconstitutional. 

In its statement, the SCJN explained that the ruling emerged from an in-depth review of the Civil Aviation Law’s regulations concerning airlines’ responsibility when a passenger misses a connecting flight because of overbooking. 

According to Article 52 of the current Civil Aviation Law, in the case of overbooking, airlines must ask passengers to give up their seats and provide, at the passenger’s discretion, a ticket refund, boarding on the next available flight with airline-covered food and lodging, or a rescheduled flight. If the passenger opts for the first or third options, airlines should also offer compensation of at least 25% of the ticket price.

A Viva Aerobus Airbus A321 neo
Until now, passengers were not always entitled to refunds in the event of an overbooking. (Viva Aerobus)

The court noted that the law unreasonably denies full compensation in the second scenario — selecting the next available flight with airline-covered food and lodging. Thus, the SCJN rendered the last part of Article 52 unconstitutional and declared that airlines must compensate passengers denied boarding due to overbooked flights with at least 25% of the ticket price, regardless of the options offered to them. 

In the case of the family that filed the lawsuit, the SCJN has now sent their dossier to the originating courts for review and to establish the amount Air France must pay as compensation.  

With reports from Imagen and El Informador

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