The Maldives has no specific law on passenger rights. However, these rights can be determined by the contract of carriage between the air carrier and passengers.
Passengers travelling in aircraft that are registered in the Maldives are bound by the terms and conditions of transport or contract for the carriage of cargo.
Compensation for damages under a contract is provided for under Section 23 of the Contract Act. Such compensation includes:
- loss which is directly suffered as a result of a breach of contract; and
- loss perceived by the parties to have stemmed from such a breach of contract.
However, compensation will not be granted to those who take no reasonable measures for protection. The act also provides for specific performance in cases where compensation is inadequate. Specific performance is limited to the obligations under the contract in question.
Since Maldivian law contains no compulsory terms and conditions for domestic air carriage, air carriers are free to determine the conditions of carriage. As long as such terms do not violate any other Maldivian laws, they are valid and binding between the passengers and consignees. Therefore, it is essential for passengers and consignees to understand the conditions of carriage and the passengers and consignees' rights in case of an accident, damage or loss of passengers and cargo. Some domestic air carriers have no published terms and conditions for domestic air travel, which makes it considerably more challenging for passengers or consignees to bring a claim against domestic air carriers.
The Maldives has ratified the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air (Warsaw Convention 1929) and the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (Montreal Convention 1999) (for further details please see "Application of international air law treaties in the Maldives").
Article 93(a) of the Constitution provides that treaties entered into by the Maldives with foreign states and international organisations shall be approved by Parliament and will come into force only in accordance following a decision from Parliament.
So far, Parliament has not enacted the Warsaw Convention or the Montreal Convention. Nevertheless, the fact that the conditions of carriage by international air carriers are governed under the Warsaw Convention or the Montreal Convention, will bind air carriers to the terms and conditions of the applicable convention. Such terms and conditions are recognised under the Contract Act.
There is one recorded case regarding passenger rights in the Maldivian courts. In Adam Manik v Sri Lankan Airlines(1) a passenger who had purchased tickets in business class for himself, his wife and grandchild from Sri Lankan Airlines was transferred to Mihin Lanka economy class with a $100 voucher as compensation. The passenger claimed that Mihin Lanka's services had been far below that of the Sri Lankan Airlines' economy class. The passenger claimed for:
- the difference in ticket price;
- legal costs;
- $1 for psychological distress; and
- an apology from Sri Lankan Airlines.
Sri Lankan Airlines argued that its conditions of carriage were governed under the Warsaw Convention and Montreal Convention under which no compensation is available for psychological distress. It also submitted that it had provided compensation by giving the passenger a voucher.
The court held that damages for psychological distress cannot be awarded under the applicable conventions. In addition, the court held that vouchers cannot be considered as compensation in monetary terms; therefore, the air carrier was ordered to pay the $81 difference in air fare to the claimant. Further, it was held that the case had been filed in order to claim for compensation rather than as a defamation case and thus no apology was ordered.
Article 1(3) of the Warsaw Convention provides that:
A carriage to be performed by several successive air carriers is deemed, for the purposes of the Convention, to be one undivided carriage, if it has been regarded by the parties as a single operation, whether it had been agreed upon under the form of a single contract or of a series of contracts, and it does not lose its international character merely because one contract or a series of contracts is to be performed entirely within a territory subject to the sovereignty, suzerainty, mandate or authority of the same High Contracting Party.
Article 1(3) of the Montreal Convention 1999 provides that:
Carriage to be performed by several successive carriers is deemed, for the purposes of this Convention, to be one undivided carriage if it has been regarded by the parties as a single operation, whether it had been agreed upon under the form of a single contract or of a series of contracts, and it does not lose its international character merely because one contract or a series of contracts is to be performed entirely within the territory of the same State.
If a passenger's journey to or within the Maldives is regarded as a single operation and it involves a domestic transfer, the liability regime under the Warsaw Convention or the Montreal Convention may apply even if two or more tickets have been issued for the journey. The determining factors will be:
- the time and place that the tickets were issued;
- the degree of continuity of the entire journey; and
- most importantly, whether the parties considered the transport to be a single journey.
Although the conditions of carriage under international air travel are certain, the terms and conditions of air travel for purely domestic air travel in the Maldives is highly ambiguous, as some air carriers have no specific terms and conditions for domestic carriage.
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