Air travel is one of the safest modes of transport, yet the disappearance of MH370 Malaysian Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on 8 March 2014 has prompted intense discussions about air travel safety. Thankfully, this is an extremely rare occurrence. For those of us not personally involved and watching the story play out in the media, intrigue and fascination as to how a plane and its passengers could simply disappear, led to international media speculation. Criminal activity, mechanical failure and human error have been actions suggested. Most air travel related injury or loss is far less severe in terms of numbers involved, but can be distressing on a personal level.
Having over ten years’ experience in dealing with international injury claims and those involving air travel, I have been asked recently what rights passengers have. Most queries relate to where any attempt to hold an airline to account for the injury of the passengers could be pursued - the country of departure, the destination or the country in which the airline is based?
The Montreal convention governs airline liability towards passengers. It allows the passenger to choose where to pursue the claim. This can include the country of arrival or where the passenger lives, depending on which is most advantageous to the passenger. The convention imposes a strict liability on the airline from the point from where embarkation begins, meaning that liability for injury arises before you step on the plane. Injuries in airports beyond a certain point would fall under the convention. This means the passenger does not have to prove the airline was negligent or breached any safety law or regulation in order to recover compensation.
The convention seeks to standardise rights across the world. It applies internationally (save for some exemptions), for example, a passenger flying from Kuala Lumpur would have the same rights as one flying to Los Angeles.
The convention does include some restrictions. The passenger will also have to pursue a claim within two years of the incident. This is less than any personal injury claim in England and Wales which have a three year limitation. The time limits across the world vary, for example, in France they are generally ten years, but in Spain a one year limitation applies. The convention also sets out which financial losses can be recovered and deals with issues such as delay compensation. Payments relating to lost or damaged baggage or delays are capped depending on the type of claim.
Most of the claims pursued under the Montreal convention involve relatively minor injuries such as falls on steps, burns from hot drinks and injuries sustained when luggage falls from overhead compartments. This goes some way to explain why cabin crew are so keen to ensure that luggage is properly secured in the overhead lockers, both to save injury and also to prevent any claim against the airline.
If you would like further information regarding air travel claims or advice on pursuing an injury claim here in the UK or abroad, please contact Jennie Jones or her team on 01279 755777.