Hilda Mariana Raquel Cordoba and her daughter filed a claim against Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA for a breach of contract.(1) In her complaint, Cordoba argued that in September 2009 she had bought a ticket from the Viajes Firenze travel agency for a non-stop flight from Europe for herself and her daughter, who suffers from bilateral blindness.
The route (ie, Madrid to Buenos Aires) was modified by Iberia due to overbooking. As a result, both passengers were placed on another flight with a stop in San Pablo, Brazil, where they had to board a Lan Chile flight.
When they arrived in San Pablo, Lan Chile personnel told Cordoba and her daughter that there was no other flight to Argentina on that day, so they bought tickets to Buenos Aires with another carrier.
The claimant argued that the defendant had fraudulently failed to fulfil its obligations and had left her abandoned in San Pablo Airport with her disabled daughter.
In the first instance, the Federal Civil and Commercial Court awarded punitive, material and moral damages to the claimant. Iberia filed an appeal with the Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals.
In the second instance, the Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals – on the grounds of the Aviation Law and the Montreal Convention 1999 – rejected the punitive damages awarded by the first-instance court, as:
- Article 63 of the Consumer Protection Law establishes that the Aeronautical Code and the Conventions of Liability on Air Transport must apply to air transport contracts; and
- Law 24,240 on Consumer Protection applies only on a supplementary basis.
Further, the Montreal Convention establishes that:
- a compensation action regarding the transportation of passengers, baggage or cargo may be initiated only within the convention's liability limits; and
- no punitive compensation should be granted for these actions.
As regards moral damages, the Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals increased the amount awarded to Ps50,000 (approximately $2,500) and maintained the amount awarded by the first-instance court for material damage caused of $900 plus Ps3,500 (approximately $175).
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