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A number of airlines are facing big fines in Mexico this week after wrongly charging passengers a fee to check their first bag on flights to the United States and Canada.
PROFECO, the nation's federal consumer protection agency, announced Tuesday that it is fining five airlines a total of 22.4 million pesos (more than $1 million US) for violating consumer protection laws.
Among the violators are four Mexican-flagged airlines and one American carrier: Aeromexico (8.3 million pesos), Interjet (5.1 million pesos), Volaris (4.5 million pesos), VivaAerobus (4.2 million pesos) and JetBlue Airways (2.3 million pesos.)
The new statute, which went into effect last April, states, "Users have the right to transport at least 25 kilograms of checked luggage and up to two pieces of hand luggage of not more than 10 kilograms on national and international flights originating from our country."
Although airlines were given 90 days by the Office of the Attorney General to adopt the new regulations, they apparently weren't moving quickly enough. In a statement, PROFECO said the airlines were also found to have engaged in "misleading advertising, discriminatory acts, abusive clauses in their contracts and other practices that violate the rights of passengers."
If you're surprised United and American aren't on the list, don't be.
PROFECO has said that it is initiating separate proceedings against the two carriers, with full details being released later in the week.
The new baggage fee regulation is just the first in a series of strict new federal policies airlines are facing in Mexico. On Tuesday, Mexico's acting Attorney General, Rafael Ochoa Morales announced a law governing airline delays.
In essence, airline delays of at least one hour but not more than four hours will require compensating passengers with food and beverage as well as a discount on a future flight. If the delay is at least two hours, the discount must be at least 7.5 percent of what the passenger paid for the delayed portion of the flight.
A delay of four hours or longer will mean the flight is considered canceled, and passengers will be entitled to a full refund of that portion of their ticket. Despite the refund, the airline will still be required to transport the passenger to their intended destination.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Mexico Expects One Million New Airlines Seats in 2017[/READMORE]
"The new regulations empower consumers, strengthen their rights, grant them economic restitution when they suffer an impairment and provides greater transparency," said Ochoa.
TravelPulse spoke with Edgar Ibarra, the editor-in-chief of Turistampa, the leading Spanish-language travel trade publication in Mexico, who said he was concerned the new rules could ultimately hurt passengers.
"If they enforce these regulations and start fining airlines for small delays, the price of tickets will go up, and that, of course, that will affect passengers," said Ibarra.
He also noted that the fines only go into effect if the delay is the fault of the airlines.
"While 64 percent of delays in Mexico were the fault of the airlines, 17 percent are attributed to weather and another 9 percent due to airports," he said. "When it comes to determining compensation, it won't always be easy to prove the airline is at fault."
Monica Poling, the evening and weekend editor at TravelPulse.com, has been writing about travel for more than 20 years....
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