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Summaries of EU Legislation

Montreal Convention on air carrier liability

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Montreal Convention on air carrier liability

 

SUMMARY OF:

Decision 2001/539/EC on the conclusion by the European Community of the Montreal Convention

Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (the Montreal Convention)

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE CONVENTION AND OF THE DECISION?

  • The convention aims to introduce uniform legal rules to govern air carrier liability in the event of damage caused to passengers, baggage or goods during international journeys.
  • The decision concludes the convention on behalf of the European Community (now the EU).

KEY POINTS

The convention introduces comprehensive legal principles and rules the most important of which are:

  • the principle of an 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 €120,000);
    • 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 contracting carrier (the air carrier whose name or code is on the air ticket) and the actual carrier (the carrier performing the flight may not be the same as the contracting air 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 EU, to accede to the convention.

In 1997, the EU adopted Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 (on air carrier liability in the event of accidents) which imposes unlimited liability on EU air carriers in the event of death or injury to passengers. Regulation (EC) No 889/2002 amends Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 and applies the rules of the Montreal Convention to all flights, whether domestic or international, operated by EU air carriers.

FROM WHEN DO THE CONVENTION AND THE DECISION APPLY?

The Montreal Convention has been in force since 4 November 2003. The decision has applied since 5 April 2001.

BACKGROUND

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 International Civil Aviation Organisation negotiated an agreement to modernise the Warsaw Convention rules, adapting them into a single legal instrument offering an appropriate level of compensation in the event of damage caused to passengers during international air transport.

For more information, see:

MAIN DOCUMENT

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) (OJ L 194, 18.7.2001, p. 38)

Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (the Montreal Convention) (OJ L 194, 18.7.2001, pp. 39-49)

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Council Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 of 9 October 1997 on air carrier liability in the event of accidents (OJ L 285, 17.10.1997, pp. 1-3)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 31.07.2018

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