When traveling by plane, especially during busy holiday seasons, delays, canceled flights and damaged or lost luggage, unfortunately are nothing uncommon. While annoying, frustrating or just inconvenient, there are actually only two things you can do when affected: keep your cool and know your rights.
Having a tantrum and yelling at, insulting or threatening the ground crew, who most probably isn’t at fault, surely won’t get you quicker on the next available plane or let your lost luggage magically reappear. So, as hard as it might be in the situation, try to be at least neutral. And a smile might bring you further than screaming.
Nevertheless, you as well don’t have to let somebody brush you off in case of a valid claim. So, knowing your rights and what you are entitled to in case something goes wrong is crucial. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
- Universal air passenger rights
- Air passenger rights in Peru
- Some final words ...
The only universal treaty regarding air travel is the Montreal Convention, a multilateral agreement which has been adopted by over 130 countries around the world (including Peru). It establishes basic airline liability, offers rights to claim for damaged or loss of luggage and determines basic air passenger rights on international flights between the large number of nations that signed the treaty.
However, it by far isn’t as extensive and consumer-friendly as for example the EC 261, Europe’s Flight Compensation Regulation, which applies not only when flying inside the EU and from the EU somewhere out with an EU and Non-EU carrier, but also when flying from outside the EU to the EU with an EU air carrier. The Montreal Convention as well isn’t as beneficial to air travelers as US laws regarding compensation for denied boarding, tarmac delays or luggage issues.
So, the extent of your rights as air traveler heavily depends on national laws of the country you are flying from and to, where the carrier is registered and sometimes, when no national laws are in place, just airline regulations.
In Peru air passenger rights are based on the Montreal Convention and backed by the Andean Community Decision No. 619, the Peruvian Consumer Protection and Defense Code (Código de Protección y Defensa del Consumidor - Indecopi) and the Civil Aviation Law of Peru, Law No. 27261 (Ley de Aeronáutica Civil del Perú).
These regulations determine air passenger rights in case of denied boarding, delays, canceled flights and luggage issues.
Be aware that below mentioned air passenger rights on the most common issues when travelling by air only apply when the airline is responsible for the disruption and not in events outside of the airlines control. So, if a flight is delayed or canceled due to extraordinary circumstances (fortuitous events or force majeure) such as, for example, inclement weather, political unrest or security risks, the passenger isn’t entitled to a compensation.
In Peru, passengers of flights that take off later than scheduled have the right to snacks, food, accommodation, transportation and a small compensation depending on the duration of the delay:
- If the delay is between 2 hours and 4 hours, the airline must offer passengers a snack and allow them to make a phone call.
- If the delay is between 4 hours and 6 hours, passengers are entitled to receive a snack and depending on the time of day breakfast, lunch or dinner. The airline as well must offer their stranded passengers to make a phone call.
- If the delay is more than 6 hours, the airline must provide a snack and food depending on the time of day (breakfast, lunch and / or dinner). Additionally, the airline must pay a compensation equivalent to 25% of the remaining value of the ticket. In case an overnight stay becomes necessary, the airline furthermore must provide accommodation as well as transport from the airport to this accommodation and back to the airport.
- If a flight is canceled, the passenger is entitled to a full refund of the remaining net value of the ticket or an alternative flight on the same day. During the waiting time, the airline must offer snacks or full meals according to the delayed flights regulations above. If a substitute flight isn’t available on the same day, the airline must provide accommodation until an alternative flight is available, food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and transport from the airport to the accommodation and back to the airport.
- In case there have been delays before the flight was canceled, the passenger gets compensated additionally according to the delayed flights regulations.
- In case a passenger poses a health, safety or security risk to himself, other passengers, the air carrier, crew or plane - including but not restricted to being drunk, carrying prohibited items, having a life threating disease, being violent, travel with invalid travel documents or without a valid visa, etc. - the airline has the right to deny boarding. The airline is only obliged to refund the remaining net value of the ticket.
- If a flight is overbooked (so the airline sold more seats than available on a flight to compensate for no-shows and now, as too many passengers have shown up for the flight, has not enough seats for everyone even though the booking was reserved and confirmed correctly), airlines often offer generous compensations (cash, points, upgrades, vouchers) to those passengers voluntarily giving up their seat and agreeing to fly at a later time. A passenger who volunteers to give up his or her seat (called voluntary denied boarding) is not entitled to airline compensation; so negotiate cleverly.
- If a passenger however is involuntarily denied boarding due to overbooking (so the airline sold more seats than available on a flight expecting no-shows and now, as too many passengers have shown up for the flight and no-one or not enough passengers willingly give up their seat, has to refuse some of them to board even though they don’t pose a health, safety or security risk and shown up with a confirmed reservation), the airline must pay a compensation equivalent to 25% of the remaining value of the ticket. Additionally, the airline must put the passenger on the next flight - with the exact same route on the same day - that has available space. In case such a flight isn’t available on the same day and route, the airline must arrange for passengers to board a flight with another airline as soon as possible.
In case a flight takes off before the scheduled time and the passenger wasn’t informed about it in a timely manner (so you arrive at the airport on time and your flight took off without you) the passenger can opt between a refund of the remaining net value of the ticket or to be re-booked on the next flight with available seats with the same or another airline; if necessary, the airline has to compensate for accommodation, food and transport.
Checked luggage is the responsibility of the airlines. They must compensate passengers for “provable loss” resulting from damaged, delayed or lost baggage.
Usually, airlines operating in Peru compensate according to the Montreal Convention, a few offer a better compensation policy; so best read the regulations of the airline you are using carefully.
Airlines have up to 21 days to find any missing baggage before its declared lost. But passengers aren’t only entitled to compensation if their baggage is lost. Airlines must also reimburse the passenger for any reasonable expenses related to delayed luggage. So, if your bag or suitcase didn’t show up and you therefore have to buy toiletries or a few clothes, keep the receipts and file a claim with the airline. But be frugal, airlines won’t pay for new designer clothes.
The same applies to damaged luggage. Here, airlines have to pay for the damage within reasonable limits.
If luggage is lost, according to the Montreal Convention, airlines have to pay 1,131 SDR (Special Drawing Rights which equals about US$ 1,500) on international flights. Be aware that the amount is only about half on domestic flights within Peru.
No matter what goes wrong on your flight, the first step before even considering leaving the airport is to get in contact with the airline, explain your situation and, if necessary, file a complaint. Whatever you do, keep the claim number, flight ticket, payment receipt, boarding pass, luggage ticket, any other receipts and any proof showing the airlines fault and supporting your claim safe (if necessary, demand written proof from the airline, make photos, etc.).
If in doubt about your rights in Peru or if the airline is anything but cooperative, pay the iPeru booth, which you find at every airport in Peru, a visit. They can guide you through Peruvian air passenger rights and help with complaints. As last resort you as well can file a complaint with Indecopi, Peru’s National Consumer Protection Authority.