Airlines are charging a new fee to ensure that a passenger’s carry-on bag has room inside the plane’s cabin and is not checked in. Although the practice is not prohibited by the Consumer Defense Code, specialists believe that Anac (National Civil Aviation Agency) could better regulate the air transport market for people.
Latam is one of the companies that offers this type of service. To guarantee space for your hand luggage inside the aircraft, the customer can pay for “Premium Boarding”, which costs R$ 10 and allows the consumer to enter before other travelers.
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That is, those who opt for this service will be able to board the third group, right after passengers with preferential boarding at no additional cost described by Law 10.048/2000, which provides that people with disabilities, seniors aged 60 years or over, Pregnant and lactating women, people with infants and the obese will receive priority assistance.
GOL, in turn, offers priority in the accommodation of hand luggage in an exclusive compartment for customers with GOL+ Conforto seats on domestic flights and customers in the “GOL Premium Economy” class on international flights operated by GOL. Azul does not inform if it has services with similar opportunities.
According to Professor Lourenço de Miranda Freire Neto of the Mackenzie Presbyterian University Law School, the Consumer Code prohibits a series of abusive practices, but the regulation of the specific practice of charging for baggage priority is not objectively described as prohibited conduct. “The way to regulate such practices in detail is through Anac’s normative acts”, he says.
For Igor Britto, director of institutional relations at Idec (Brazilian Institute of Consumer Protection), there is a lack of clear rules on the subject because Anac would be silent in relation to what regulated companies can charge.
“Furthermore, in Brazil we don’t have any rules dealing with loyalty and mileage programs, which makes it even more open for airlines to create new services, privileges and charges”, he criticizes.
Stéfano Ribeiro Ferri, a lawyer specializing in Consumer and Health Law, has the same sentiment. “There is no norm in the Consumer Code regarding priority in the allocation of luggage. This regulatory vacuum allows airlines to create strategies, without any limitation, to profit from the defective provision of services, transferring the burden to the consumer”.
In a note, ANAC informs that “under the provisions of ANAC Resolution 400/2016, airlines can offer optional services, and the priority boarding service is one of these possibilities. It is worth remembering that charging for these specific services is a common practice in the main countries of the world and allows airlines to operate with different business models, which, in the medium and long term, tends to attract more competition to the sector”.
Also according to the agency, “with regard to the carriage of hand luggage, it is important to note that every passenger is entitled to a hand luggage allowance, which is at least 10 kilos, under the terms of Resolution 400/2016, which provides for the general conditions of air transport. However, the carrier may restrict the weight and dimensions of hand luggage for reasons of safety or aircraft capacity, in accordance with information mandatorily contained in the carriage contract. In these cases, the luggage must be dispatched without additional charges to the passenger”.
Ferri believes that it is necessary to create more limits for the actions of airlines. “Although Anac recognizes the possibility that companies offer additional services, it is essential to impose limits, always observing the provisions of the Consumer Protection Code, providing predictability and legal certainty to users”, he says.
Freire Neto points out that the lack of quality and high prices of services in Brazil have market concentration as the main factor. “The most reasonable way out would be to undertake regulatory changes that allow greater competitiveness, with the ease of entry of foreign operators in the various national routes”, he defends.
For Britto, if the consumer was forced to adapt to new rules by purchasing bags within the established limits for them to be accommodated inside the cabin, it is necessary to treat this as a right that people have come to exercise. “Even because everyone had to accept the charge for checked baggage. Anac and consumer protection agencies should ensure that airlines stop creating ways to disrespect our rights”, he assesses.
“Airline companies charge for ‘extra services’, but seem to recognize that their services are bad, as they charge for what should be a competitive advantage. They are charges that they sell as a ‘premium service’, a ‘differential for those who want more comfort and practicality’, but which are basically ways of charging for the person to be able to ‘get on the plane first’, ‘guarantee a little space in the bag and the backpack in the upper luggage compartment’ or to ‘avoid sitting in the middle seat’”, adds the director of Idec.
Finally, he claims that additional charges could even be tolerated if the quality of the services provided were better. “If the basic service were at least comfortable and respectful, we would even tolerate extra charges, but traveling by plane is extremely expensive and uncomfortable, being an alternative only for those who can avoid the long and dangerous Brazilian roads”.
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