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:
- uniform liability limits for loss of, damage to, or destruction of, baggage and for damage occasioned by delay, which apply to all travel on Community carriers, will ensure simple and clear rules for both passengers and airlines and enable passengers to recognise when additional insurance is necessary.
- 'baggage', unless otherwise specified, shall mean both checked and unchecked baggage with the meaning of Article 17(4) of the Montreal Convention;
- the liability of a Community air carrier in respect of passengers and their baggage shall be governed by all provisions of the Montreal Convention relevant to such liability.
- the supplementary sum which, in accordance with Article 22(2) of the Montreal Convention, may be demanded by a Community air carrier when a passenger makes a special declaration of interest in delivery of their baggage at destination, shall be based on a tariff which is related to the additional costs involved in transporting and insuring the baggage concerned over and above those for baggage valued at or below the liability limit. The tariff shall be made available to passengers on request.
- all air carriers shall, when selling carriage by air in the Community, ensure that a summary of the main provisions governing liability for passengers and their baggage, including deadlines for filing an action for compensation and the possibility of making a special declaration for baggage, is made available to passengers at all points of sale, including sale by telephone and via the Internet.
- the applicable limit for that flight on the carrier's liability in respect of destruction, loss of or damage to baggage and a warning that baggage greater in value than this figure should be brought to the airline's attention at check-in or fully insured by the passenger prior to travel.
In case of baggage delay, the air carrier is liable for damage unless it took all reasonable measures to avoid the damage or it was impossible to take such measures. The liability for baggage delay is limited to 1000 SDRs (approximate amount in local currency).
Destruction, loss or damage to baggage
The air carrier is liable for destruction, loss or damage to baggage up to 1000 SDRs (approximate amount in local currency). In the case of checked baggage, it is liable even if not at fault, unless the baggage was defective. In the case of unchecked baggage, the carrier is liable only if at fault.
Higher limits for baggage
A passenger can benefit from a higher liability limit by making a special declaration at the latest at check-in and by paying a supplementary fee.
Complaints on baggage
If the baggage is damaged, delayed, lost or destroyed, the passenger must write and complain to the air carrier as soon as possible. In the case of damage to checked baggage, the passenger must write and complain within seven days, and in the case of delay within 21 days, in both cases from the date on which the baggage was placed at the passenger's disposal.
Time limit for action
Any action in court to claim damages must be brought within two years from the date of arrival of the aircraft, or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived.