Thailand is set to ratify the 1999 Montreal Convention after filing its accession instrument with the International Civil Aviation Organization, ushering in a new regime that is expected to bring a marked reduction in damages litigation.
Thai government officials submitted their ratification instrument to ICAO in Montreal on 3 August, with the convention set to come into force on 2 October 2017. Thailand has already amended domestic legislation to reflect the principles of the Montreal Convention.
Tim Colehan, assistant director for external affairs at the International Aviation Trade Association, confirmed the filing in an alert to the industry group’s member airlines on 4 August. He said it is particularly significant, because Thailand is the largest country in terms of cargo shipments yet to ratify the convention.
“This is a remarkable development... because the kingdom had never ratified the Warsaw Convention 1929 or any of its amending protocols,” he said. “The accession will have a number of practical benefits for member airlines operating or marketing flights between Thailand and states that are already parties to the Montreal Convention.”
Under the convention, carrier liability for a passenger’s death or injury and the delay, loss or damage to cargo are capped, although liability for a passenger’s death or injury is increased. Ratification of the Montreal Convention will streamline administrative procedures in these types of liability claims, he said.
“This should lead to a material reduction in litigation and court cases, many of which were previously subject to the local Thai Civil Code, with cases taking many years to be resolved,” Colehan said.
The convention also permits the use of electronic documents as a record of carriage in cargo operations, updating rules set out in the Warsaw Convention, which require a paper air waybill to accompany any shipment. This will improve accuracy, efficiency and productivity, Colehan said.
By ratifying the Montreal Convention, Thailand follows in the footsteps of Indonesia, Mauritius, Russia and Swaziland, which all confirmed this year their accession to the 1999 convention. Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways have been credited in helping lobby for its ratification.
IATA said it will continue to push for ratification in the 20 largest markets that are yet to sign up to the convention, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
“We remain optimistic that the remaining states will ratify at the earliest opportunity,” an IATA official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It is not that governments don’t see the benefits, it’s just that ratification of international treaties typically requires changes in domestic legislation – and with many other legislative priorities, it can be hard to get parliamentary time. We certainly hope that countries like Vietnam, Ghana, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will ratify by the end of 2017.”
Plans to ratify the Montreal Convention come as Thailand aims to persuade ICAO to lift the country’s “red flag” status. The UN agency imposed special measures on Thai carriers in 2015, after issuing a significant safety concern finding that identified a shortage of technical officers in the country and certification problems in transporting hazardous goods.
Since then the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has recertified eight airlines, including national flag carrier Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, NokScoot and Nok Air, as well as Thai Smile and Thai Lion Air, which both secured recertification in July.