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Montreal Convention on air carrier liability

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Montreal Convention on air carrier liability

This decision ratifies the Montreal Convention, which introduces a modernised and uniform legal framework governing airline companies' liability in the event of damage caused to passengers, baggage or goods during international journeys.


Council Decision 2001/539/EC of 5 April 2001 on the conclusion by the European Community of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (the Montreal Convention) [Official Journal L 194 of 18.07.2001].


The inadequacy of the 1929 Warsaw Convention, which governed air carriers' liability for death and injury, and of its subsequent revisions led to the need to modernise and unify the rules on liability.

In May 1999, the Contracting States of the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) negotiated an agreement to modernise the Warsaw Convention rules, recasting them into a single legal instrument offering an appropriate level of compensation in the event of damage caused to passengers during international air transport.

The new Montreal Convention of 1999 introduced a uniform legal framework to govern air carrier liability in the event of damage caused to passengers, baggage or goods during international journeys.

At Community level, and to ensure a uniform system, Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 imposes unlimited liability on Community air carriers in the event of death or injury to passengers. This Regulation was amended by Regulation (EC) No 889/2002, which applied the rules of the Montreal Convention to all flights, whether domestic or international, operated by Community air carriers.

The new agreement introduces a new comprehensive legal framework, the most important contributions of which are as follows:

  • the principle of the air carrier's unlimited civil liability in the event of bodily injury; this splits into two tiers:

- a first tier of strict carrier liability for damages of up to 100 000 SDRs (special drawing rights, as defined by the International Monetary Fund, i.e. around EUR 135 000);

- in excess of that amount, a second tier of liability based on the presumed fault of the carrier, which the latter may avoid only by proving that it was not at fault (the burden of proof is on the carrier);

  • the principle of making advance payments, in the event of bodily injury, to enable victims or the persons entitled to compensation to cover their immediate economic needs;
  • the possibility for the victim, or the persons entitled to compensation, to bring suits before the courts in the passenger's principal place of residence;
  • an increase in the air carrier's liability limits in the event of delay, and in the event of damage caused to baggage (delay, loss or damage);
  • modernisation of transport documents (electronic airway bills and tickets);
  • clarification of the rules on the respective liability of the contractual carrier and the actual carrier;
  • generalised institution of the obligation for air carriers to maintain adequate insurance;
  • introduction of the so-called 'regional' clause allowing economic integration organisations such as the European Union to accede to the new Convention.

The Montreal Convention will enter into force once thirty member countries have deposited their instruments of ratification.


Regulation (EC) No 889/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 May 2002 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 on air carrier liability in the event of accidents [Official Journal L 140 of 30.05.2002].

The Regulation will apply as of the date on which the Montreal Convention enters into force for the European Community, i.e. once the Community and its Member States have ratified it.

Last updated: 19.07.2006