2013. September 11.

Community air carriers’ liability

What are the obligations of Community air carriers as regards the nature and limits of their liability in the event of accidents such as death or injury,   destroyed, lost or damaged baggage?

Death or injury

The air carrier is liable in the event of death, wounding or any other bodily injury to a passenger, if the accident took place on board an aircraft or during any of the embarking or disembarking operations.

There is no financial limit to the liability for damages in respect of death or injury. However, for damages up to 100.000 SDR[24][1], the air carrier cannot contest claims for compensation. In excess of that amount, the air carrier can defend itself against a claim only by proving that it was not negligent or otherwise at fault.

Destruction, loss or damage to baggage

The air carrier is liable for the destroyed, lost or damaged baggage in case the event caused the damage took place on board an aircraft or happened during the period of within which the baggage was in the charge of the carrier. In the case of checked baggage, the air carrier is liable even if not at fault, unless the baggage is detective or the damage resulted from an inherent defect, quality or vice of the baggage. In the case of unchecked baggage, the air carrier is only liable if at fault, however at this time the burden proof is on the passenger.

When the baggage is destroyed, lost or damaged the air carrier is liable up to 1000 SDR for each passenger. The European Court of Justice stated in its recent decision that this compensation including the total damage caused, regardless of whether that damage is material on non-material, except when a special declaration and an additional payment is made at the checking-counter by the passenger.

Passenger, baggage delay 

Additionally, when flight is canceled or significantly delayed, passengers may be entitled to compensation depending on the delay length and the flight distance.

The air carrier is liable up to 4150 SDR in case of passenger delay, and up to 1000 SDR in case of baggage delay unless it proves that took all reasonable measures to avoid the damage or it was impossible to take such measures.

Claiming compensation

If baggage is delayed, destroyed, lost or damaged the passenger must write and complain to air carrier as soon as possible. In the case of damage, the complaint must be made within 7 days and within 21 days in the case of delay, in both cases from the date on which the baggage was placed at the passenger’s disposal.

Any action in court to claim damages must be taken within 2 years from the date of arrival of the aircraft or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived.

In both cases, if no complaint was made within the given deadline, no action shall lie against the airline.

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[24][1] special drawing rights, as defined by the Monetary fund