The Montreal Convention (convention), formally known as the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage, is a treaty adopted by a diplomatic meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) member states in 1999.
The convention amended important provisions of the Warsaw Convention’s articles regulating compensation for the victims of air disasters. It reestablished urgently needed uniformity and predictability of rules relating to the international carriage of passengers, baggage, and cargo. The Montreal Convention supersedes and replaces the earlier Warsaw Convention[i].
In a famous case, the court held that “the Montreal Convention is a treaty of the U.S which governs the rights and liabilities of international air carriers and passengers[ii]”.
The convention governs the rights and liabilities of international air carriers and passengers. Like the Warsaw Convention, the Montreal Convention has been construed as having a complete preemptive effect over all claims within its scope. Courts interpreting the Montreal Convention rely on cases interpreting similar provisions of the Warsaw Convention[iii].
Article 1(1) of the convention states that the convention covers all international carriage of persons, baggage, or cargo performed by aircraft for reward. Article 17 of the convention covers the liability for personal injury. It provides that a “carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking[iv].”
The convention sets out airlines’ liabilities for passengers and their baggage. The convention covers liability for:
- death or injury to passengers;
- delay, and
- baggage (loss, damage, or delay).
According to the convention, air carriers are strictly liable for proven damages up to a specified limit. The convention was brought about mainly to amend liabilities to be paid to families for death or injury whilst on board an aircraft. It allows the victim or their families to sue foreign carriers where they maintain their principal residence, and requires all air carriers to carry liability insurance. The convention changes and generally increases the maximum liability of airlines for lost baggage.
The Montreal Convention, like the Warsaw Convention bars claim outside its terms for personal injury suffered on board an aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking[v].
[i] Sompo Japan Ins., Inc. v. Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., 522 F.3d 776, 779 (7th Cir. Ill. 2008).
[ii] Schaefer-Condulmari v. US Airways Group, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114723 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 8, 2009).
[iii] Berson v. Delta Air Lines, Lines, 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2089 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2010).
[iv] Schaefer-Condulmari v. US Airways Group, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114723, 10-11 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 8, 2009).