New obligations for airlines in Mexico.

Mexico’s Department of Communications and Transports (“DCT”) published in the official journal on March 8, 2018, a temporary official standard NOM-EM-121-SCT3-2017 (the Standard) that becomes effective today, on certain provisions relating to (i) contracts of carriage by air, (ii) baggage identification tag and (iii) carriage of pets and service animals.

The preamble of the Standard justifies its issuance in order to complement the bill that amended the Civil Aviation Act (CAA)  published in the official journal on June 26, 2017, concerning air passenger rights. Indeed, the transitory articles of the bill mandated the executive branch and the DCT to draft the official standards necessary to facilitate the implementation of the amendments to the CAA.

The provisions of the Standard are summarized as follows:

I. Regarding contracts of carriage of passengers

Air carriers shall provide a contract in accordance with the type of service they operate.

When it comes to the carriage of passengers, air carriers shall deliver a hard copy or soft copy of the collective or individual passenger ticket that at least must contain the following information:

a) Passenger full name.

b) Place, issuing date, validity term and number of the ticket.

c) An indication of the places of departure and destination.

d) An indication of schedules, dates and flight number, except for open tickets.

e) Names or codes and address of the air carriers involved in the carriage.

f) The fare that applies to the route or leg of a route authorized by the DCT, and, all the charges that are not included in the same.

g) Limitations of weight and amount of baggage.

h) A list of dangerous goods (that can be attached to the ticket) that are not allowed to be carried by air.

i) Conditions of service.

j) Air carrier’s liabilities.

k) Passengers rights.

l) If the places of departure and destination are within the Mexican territory, one or more agreed stopping places being within the territory of another state, an indication of at least one of such stopping place.

m) A notice stating that if the passengers have a flight which final destination or stopping place, are in a state other than Mexico, the carriage shall be governed by both the Standard and the international conventions to which Mexico is a party. International conventions shall govern the liability of air carriers for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger, destruction or loss of, or damage to baggage, in case of delay and of the issuance of the individual ticket.

n) A clear indication of the anticipated arrival time at the airport and the closing of the flight.

o) Time of the flight departure.

II. Regarding the baggage identification tag

When it comes to carriage of checked baggage, air carriers shall deliver to the passenger an identification tag for each piece of checked baggage, that at least shall contain the following information:

a) Barcode and numerical format that identify the operator and type of tag;

b) IATA code of the departure airport;

c) IATA code of the destination airport;

d) Operator code and flight number.

e) Name of the passenger identified with the tag (surnames and first name).

Non-compliance with the requirements I and II above, shall not affect the existence or the validity of the contract of carriage, which shall be however subject to the rules established by the Standard and the ones provided for by international conventions, including those relating to limitation of liability.

The Standard also provides rules and proceedings for the carriage of pets and service animals on board of aircraft.

The general directorate of civil aviation will watch over the compliance with the Standard, which shall be in full force and effect during a six-month term extendable for an equal term.

Final remarks

The amendments to the CAA that became effective on June, 2017, have imposed air carriers several obligations with the general purpose of granting rights to passengers. The new provisions established in the amended CAA are themselves a positive measure to protect air passengers.

Likewise, the Standard contains additional obligations for air carriers that were meant to complement the passenger rights provisions set forth in the CAA. However, the Standard establishes requirements that are not even contemplated in the international conventions to which Mexico is a party, namely the Montreal Convention 1999.

And although according to the Standard, non-compliance with its requirements, shall not affect the existence or the validity of the contract of carriage, which shall be however subject to the rules relating to limitation of liability established by international conventions and the Standard itself; the truth of the matter is that such inconsistency may lead to interpretation problems as to which of both the international convention or the CAA and the Standard shall prevail in case of contradiction.

It is likely that in the near future, the above inconsistency and other related matters  will be put forth and contested before Mexican courts.

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