JUNE 2014
  • Consumer Protections and Limited Liabilty: Global Order
    for Air Transport?

    Steven Truxal
Click here to read extracts of the article

The proliferation of air passenger rights regimes around the globe, at least half of which were introduced in the past seven years, presents a real challenge for many stakeholders in air transport. On one hand, national rules often vary from state to state; they overlap and are often complex or conflicting, which can be seen as creating rather ambiguous liability for the air transport sector, in particular for airlines and airports. On the other hand, the inherent nature of air transport is that it is international. A passenger holding a common itinerary may have rights under one or more air passenger rights regimes during his or her journey. If the travel does not go exactly as planned, attempts by the affected passenger to acquire information about, understand and enforce his or her consumer rights may prove onerous. National authorities could also fail to provide adequate complaint handling and compliance checking procedures. That which results ultimately flies in the face of the purported aims of national and regional regimes, which surely is to provide consumer protection.

This comment identifies recent developments at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN specialized agency, within the sphere of consumer protection for air transport. The current state of affairs is considered alongside discussion on certain aspects of current air passenger rights in the European Union (EU) and the limited air carrier liability regime of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 (Montreal Convention), and the issues that arise with respect to interpretation and application of the relevant law. The following section reveals the significance of the intersection of consumer protection for passengers at national and regional levels, and limited liability for airlines at international law, which has given rise to a recent call for global order vis-à-vis core principles on air passenger rights at international law.