According to a recent Frankfurt Local Court decision, a property irregularity report filed in the case of delayed baggage does not suffice as a timely notice of complaint, as set forth in Article 31(2) of the Montreal Convention.
The claimant had booked a flight from Munich via Madrid to Havana with the same carrier. On arrival in Havana the claimant's only piece of baggage was missing. According to the claimant, she immediately reported the missing baggage at the airport and filed a property irregularity report. The baggage was finally returned three days later. A further six weeks later the claimant's legal counsel sent a letter of complaint to the travel agency which had made the reservation.
The airline argued that the claimant did not complain within the time limit set forth in Article 31(2). Even if a property irregularity report was filed, this would not suffice as a timely notice of complaint. The airline further defended the claim, arguing that the baggage was actually delivered on time but that another passenger had taken it by mistake, for which it could not be liable.
The court dismissed the claim and held that it was irrelevant whether the airline fulfilled its duty to deliver the baggage on time or whether it could be held liable for the mistake of another passenger. In any case, the claimant failed to make a complaint on time.
Pursuant to Articles 31(2) and (3) of the Montreal Convention, in case of delayed baggage the passenger must complain to the carrier in writing within 21 days of the date on which the baggage was placed at his or her disposal, otherwise no action can be taken against the carrier (Article 31(4)). With regard to the meaning and purpose of Article 31 – which is to inform the airline about claims raised against it – the notice of complaint must at least reveal the approximate extent of damage. According to the court, the mere notification that a piece of checked baggage has not been delivered does not meet these requirements. The court argued that such a notification in no way reveals to the airline if and to what extent damages will be claimed by the passenger.
The court held that the first substantiated complaint was made by the claimant's legal counsel. However, apart from the fact that the letter was not addressed to the airline as the right recipient, but rather to the travel agency, the notice of complaint was clearly not made within the time limit set out in Article 31(2).
The decision is final.
According to the court, a property irregularity report will never suffice as a timely notice of complaint in the case of delayed baggage. The report is usually filed right after arrival and serves the airline as a basis for a computer search. At this point it is not yet clear whether there is a delay or loss, how long a delay will last and which damages could ensue. Hence, a property irregularity report informs the airline only about missing baggage, and not about the expected claim for damages, as intended by Article 31. The judgment is not readily transferable to damaged baggage. Since damage can be determined immediately after delivery, a property irregularity report must be reviewed for its substantiation in each individual case.
For further information on this topic please contact Kathrin Lenz at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (email@example.com). The ArneckeSibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.
(1) 31 C 3884/15 (74), July 15 2016.
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