As summer is approaching, many of us are planning our summer getaway. However, no matter how much we look forward to a relaxing break, things can start off badly with an unpleasant flight – everyone has been there. Be it that the airline has lost your luggage, your flight is delayed or even that you have an unfortunate accident on board the flight, all of these things have the potential to ruin a holiday. In these situations, although many of us turn to our insurers, what redress is there against the airline?

The applicable rules are detailed in the Montréal Convention. This covers over 90 countries (“State Parties”) including all members of the European Union and other popular holiday destinations such as the United States, Australia and Canada. The rules apply where a passenger flies from one State Party to another, and where a return ticket is bought for a trip to a non State Party.

What’s covered?

Damaged/Lost Baggage?

Probably the biggest annoyance on holiday for us all is if our baggage is damaged or lost.

The Convention covers a passenger’s baggage where lost, damaged or destroyed. In relation to damaged baggage, an airline will not be liable if damage was caused due to the flimsy quality of the item. Of course, this is open to interpretation.

In respect of lost luggage, if an airline admits the loss of checked baggage or the checked baggage has not arrived within 21 days of the date that it ought to have arrived, the airline will be held liable.

Delayed Flights?

An airline may be held liable for delays under the Convention. However, before we all run off to make our complaints for an hour’s delay, they can avoid liability where they can show that they acted “reasonably” in the circumstances. Thus the usual reasons such as essential maintenance or busy airspace are not likely to be deemed unreasonable!

Accident on board the aeroplane?

The Convention confers liability on airlines for death or physical personal injury caused by an accident occurring either on board the aircraft or during the process of embarking or disembarking.

What amounts to an “accident” is uncertain and will vary depending on the circumstance. Already the onset of Deep Vein Thrombosis has been held not to fall within the definition. Also as the injury must be physical, not psychological, the stress of an unpleasant flight is also unfortunately not covered!

How long do you have to raise a claim against the airline?

The Convention sets a time period of two years from the passenger’s actual or intended arrival at the destination.