(CN) – Mexican airline passengers lost their bid to reinstate a class action accusing Aeromexico of collecting a so-called “tourism tax” for the Mexican government, even though Mexican citizens are exempt from the tax.
The 9th Circuit said the airline “had no contractual obligation to advise passengers about the tax or their right to a refund.”
Maria Sanchez, a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, sued Aeromexico after a $22 tax was allegedly included in her $428 ticket from Los Angeles to Mexico.
Sanchez’s Mexican citizenship excludes her from the tax, along with Mexican residents, diplomats, children under 2 years old and those staying in Mexico for less than 24 hours.
The airline says the tax funds go to the Mexican government.
The Pasadena-based appellate panel upheld dismissal of Sanchez’s claim that the airline breached its obligation to tell passengers about the tax and refund possibilities. Her claim relied heavily on the airline’s Web site, but the three-judge panel said the site “cannot be reasonably read as imposing any such obligation on Aeromexico.”
Under the Airline Deregulation Act, the court ruled, a state may not enact or enforce a law or regulation related to an airlines prices, routes or services.
Judge Andrew Kleinfeld dissented, saying the majority mistakenly concluded that the ticket price included the tourism tax.
“Sanchez is a Mexican citizen, so Mexico does not impose the $22 tax on her trips to Mexico,” he wrote. “Sanchez was not liable for the Mexican tax, never was, and could not ‘remain liable’ for a tax she never owed.”
Kleinfeld also noted that “the entire class she wishes to represent is exempt from tax, so significant money is at stake.”
He added that it was unclear where the money was going.
“The record does not reveal whether the airline gave the $22 to the Mexican government, or kept it for itself despite taking it under the premise of a tax collected on behalf of the Mexican government,” he wrote.