Small Claims Courts at Airports
Small Claims Courts (SCCs) were opened up in airports a few years ago with the aim of speeding up the processing of demands relating to baggage violation, theft and loss, flight delays and cancellations, overbooking, and the obligations to provide information and otherwise comply with passengers’ rights. The services provided by the SCCs are free of charge and aim to resolve issues that involve sums of up to 20 minimum wages (approx. US$ 6,000), without the need for an attorney.
Each court has a staff of employees and mediators operating under the coordination of a judge, who attempts to resolve the disputes by means of an amicable settlement between the passengers and the airline companies. An employee from each airline should be present to register the complaint. If no settlement is reached, the claim is sent to the Small Claims Court nearest to passenger’s domicile, which will decide the case.
SCCs are present at Brazil’s major airports, such as (i) Galeão/GIG (Rio), (ii) Guarulhos/GRU (São Paulo), (iii) Juscelino Kubitschek/BSB (Brasília). (iv) Santos Dumont SDU (Rio), (v) Congonhas/CGH (São Paulo); (vi) Confins/CNF (Belo Horizonte), and (vii) Marechal Rondon/CGB (Cuiabá).
During the first 13 days of 2014, 1,834 cases were filed at the SCCs located in Brazil’s airports, with an average of 141 cases being handled per day, which represented a 47% increase on the number registered in December of 2013, certainly due to the January school holiday season. The five SSCs located in São Paulo, Rio and Brasília have managed to use conciliation hearings to resolve approx. 30% of the 7,900 or so complaints received since they first opened in July 2010, with more than 17,000 passenger having been attended to according to the National Counsel of Justice.
During the World Cup SCCs were set up at many of the 12 World Cup host cities. During the period between June 5 and Juy 10 the airport SCCs remained open for longer hours and received a total of 3,075 complaints. Considering the exceptionally high number of passengers travelling within Brazil during these days, the number of claims was relatively lower than average. One of the factors that has certainly contributed to this was ANAC’s campaign to reduce travel related problems during the World Cup by, among others, issuing ANAC Regulation nr. 316/2014 which provided for heavy fines for last minute slot cancelations and excessive ground time.