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New Regulations in Colombia Regarding Publicizing Legroom Measurement Information 

The amount of legroom an airline passenger has is an important comfort factor for flyers. Lately, legroom, or the space between the customer’s seat and the back of the seat in front of them, has taken the spotlight in Colombia, explicitly concerning consumer (passenger’s) rights issues in commercial aviation.  

Protecting passenger rights is an important issue in Colombia. One aspect of passenger protection involves understanding what information a consumer receives from an airline at the time of making a decision to buy a ticket, especially regarding legroom space.   

Airlines promote legroom space as a benefit for passengers with expressions such as “more space between seats” or “wider seats.” But the information provided to consumers in Colombia is either not clear, difficult to understand, measure or compare when making decisions, not consistent across airlines or advertises more legroom than what a customer receives.  

Because protecting passenger rights is so important in Colombia, the Superintendence of Transportation would like to become the premier protection agency for passengers concerning this issue. As a result, the Superintendent of Transportation announced the issuance of a new regulation requiring all commercial airlines flying from Colombia to provide information regarding legroom to customers.  

The first statement that should be made is, does the Superintendence of Transportation have the legal faculties to issue this regulation?  

Undoubtedly the answer is negative. This Superintendence does not have the legal faculties to do it, and therefore it would be exceeding it, since the competent authority is de Civil Aviation Authority (Aeronautica Civil). 

This consumer protection law applies to regular commercial flights. And another question that arises would be, what would happen to charters? 

What airlines will be required to do to comply with the new regulation 

The new regulation requires all commercial airlines with flights originating in Colombia to: 

  • Provide the dimensions of legroom on every aircraft the airline operates out of Colombia. 
  • Legroom space dimensions must be made available on any and all kinds of information an airline releases regarding legroom space (i.e., travel agencies, website, tickets, advertisements, virtual or precencial, etc.). 
  • Airlines must inform customers of any adjustments in the price of an airline ticket due to legroom space, and they must present or display the pricing clearly to customers. 
  • Dimensions will be measured using a standard measuring scale, in the case of Colombia, using a decimal metric system and not inches because that is the system used in Colombia. 
  • Travel agents will be required to inform their passengers of the legroom dimensions before purchasing a ticket. The airline has the duty to provide this information to travel agents.  

The challenges 

Commercial airlines operating in Colombia will face several challenges in meeting the new legroom regulation.  

First, most airlines do not have the legroom dimensions recorded for the aircraft in their fleet. Measuring and compiling the dimension information will be a massive task for the airlines to complete within 30 days following the date on which the aforementioned regulation is to be issued. 

Another challenge airlines will face is providing the same aircraft with the legroom dimensions the consumer chose when booking the ticket originally to the aircraft used on the day of travel. It is common for airlines to switch aircraft on the day of travel. Often these changes happen within minutes to keep aircraft traveling at the designated time. Issues with the weather, staffing, maintenance, traffic and more are examples of why the airplane a consumer flies on would be different than the one they purchased a ticket for.  

In addition, measuring standards are different. So, two airlines could have aircraft with the same legroom space, but because they measure it differently, even with a standard scale, they could report different dimensions.  

Another difficulty is creating a standard price structure for a ticket based on legroom space dimensions. Currently, there is no standardized pricing model for airlines to price their tickets consistently.  

Lastly, this regulation will be burdensome for authorities to oversee. The amount of information from the airlines will be massive, and ensuring airlines comply will be daunting.  

These challenges will affect the enforcement of the new regulation and the information a passenger receives regarding legroom space dimensions.  

FAQs 

1. When will the airlines be required to comply? 

All commercial airlines with flights originating in Colombia must follow the new regulations within 30 days following the date on which the aforementioned regulation is to be issued.  

2. What happens if airlines do not comply? 

Airlines will be fined if they do not provide legroom dimensions or do not show the legroom dimensions in anything a customer sees. Although, the fines have not been set at the time of this article. It is still unknown what an airline will be required to do if a consumer files a complaint that they received a different legroom space than what they purchased. Possibly a refund or other compensation would be given in these cases.  

3. Has this been done before? 

Brazil is the only country which I have been able to find out up to now with this type of regulation. European airlines have provided legroom space dimensions to customers, but it is not required.  

Summary 

The new regulations project handed down by the Superintendence of Transportation now requires commercial airlines to provide the dimensions of legroom space on any aircraft flying from Colombia. These legroom dimensions will be required to be posted on anything a passenger would see when considering purchasing an airline ticket on one of these flights. Additionally, the airline ticket price must reflect the differences in legroom dimensions by aircraft.  

This new regulation project will pose several challenges to these commercial airlines, including the time required to compile the dimensions for all aircraft, adhering to the regulation when flight plans change and creating a pricing standard for tickets based on the difference in legroom space.  

This new regulation project supporting consumer protection rules for airline passengers will go into effect within 30 days following the date on which the aforementioned regulation is to be issued. Our Colombia representative, José Elías Del Hierro Hoyos, will monitor this situation and provide any pertinent updates.   

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