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.

New framework

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); {adselite}

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.

Extract from Article 6 in Regulation (EC) No 889/2002 regarding baggage.

Baggage delays

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 1 000 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 1 000 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.

Source: Summaries of EU legislation