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What is the Montreal Convention and what rights does it confer on passengers?

One of the laws governing international air carrier liability is the Montreal Convention, an international treaty struck in 1999 which applies to all international carriage of baggage or cargo for compensation. The treaty applies both to businesses, governments and to “legally constituted public bodies.”  

The Montreal Convention makes aircraft carriers liable for damages and loss of checked baggage, as well as death or bodily injury to passengers, but there are conditions for liability to apply, as well as limitations on liability. 

For baggage, the event that caused the damage or loss must have occurred on board the aircraft, or while the carrier had charge of the baggage. Carriers are not responsible, though, for damage to baggage due to defects of the baggage itself, or damage attributable to the passenger. With respect to unchecked baggage and personal items, carriers are only liable if the damage was caused by an airline employee, or some agent of the airline.

When baggage is either lost or has not arrived within twenty-one days after the date it should have arrived, passengers are then able to pursue remedies agreed to under the carriage contract. Airlines which refuse to honor their contractual obligations can be held liable for breach of contract.

With respect to the injury or death of passengers, international air carriers are liable for damages resulting from the death or bodily injury of passengers when the accident that caused the death or injury occurred on board the aircraft or in the course of any aircraft operations related to embarking or disembarking. The Montreal Convention makes carriers liable for up to 100,000 special drawing rights per passenger, with no exclusions or limitations on liability.

Special drawing rights is a blend of currency values determined by the International Monetary Fund. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney to recover fair compensation for injuries and losses sustained in international airplane accidents.  

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