Baggage Claims Under the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions

Posted by: Abigail Roberts

11.08.11

Various air carriers have requirements in the event that a passenger seeks to state a baggage claim for damage, loss or delay. However, when the baggage claim is being made in litigation or related to a flight which is governed by either the Montreal or Warsaw Conventions, particular restrictions are imposed on the claim.  Defense counsel should be aware of the myriad requirements for the recovery of baggage claims, in order to properly defend against such claims. The Warsaw Convention is an international treaty governing certain incidents that occur on board an aircraft during flights between signatory nations, which was modified by the Montreal Protocol Number 4 (The Montreal Convention) and the International Air Transportation Association Intercarrier Agreement on Passenger Liability. Essentially, when an incident occurs on an International flight between signatories of the Montreal or Warsaw Conventions, the applicable convention provisions will apply.  Whether the provisions of the Montreal or Warsaw conventions will apply to a particular case will depend on which of these conventions were in effect on the date of loss. Each convention treats the handling of baggage claims differently.

Damaged Baggage

Pursuant Article 26(2) of the original Warsaw Convention, any claim for damage to luggage must be reported at most three days after the receipt of luggage. The Hague Protocol, which modified the Warsaw Convention and went into force in the United States in 2003, modified this time frame. Specifically, the Hague Protocol provides that a passenger must report a claim for damage within seven days from the receipt of the baggage. Most recently, the United States ratified the Montreal Convention. Article 31 of this Convention similarly requires that a passenger report a damage claim within seven days of receipt of checked baggage. 

Lost Baggage

With regard to lost baggage, the Warsaw Convention, Hague Protocol, Montreal Protocol No. 4, and the IATA Intercarrier Agreements are silent as to any reporting requirements for lost baggage claims. Consequently, various courts have interpreted Article 33 of the Warsaw Convention, which allows carriers to enact regulations that supplement but do not conflict with the Convention, to allow carriers to supplement Article 26 through their respective tariffs by mandating a time limit for written notice of lost baggage. The same analysis will likely apply to claims for baggage under the Montreal Convention, since Article 31 of the Montreal Convention is also silent with regard to notice requirements for lost baggage claims.

Delayed Baggage Claims

As it relates to delayed baggage claims, Article 26 of the Warsaw Convention originally required that a party make a written complaint within 14 days from the date on which the luggage was placed at the passenger’s disposal. The Hague Protocol then modified Article 26 to require that such complaints be made within 21 days from the date on which the luggage was placed at the passenger’s disposal. Neither Montreal Protocol No. 4 nor the IATA Intercarrier Agreements modified the time limitations for notice of delayed baggage claims. Much like Article 26 of the Warsaw Convention, Article 31 of the Montreal Convention requires that the passenger state a complaint within 21 days of the date the luggage was placed at the passenger’s disposal.

How Much Is a Passenger Entitled To Receive For Baggage Claims?

In the event that a passenger has actually made a valid baggage claim within the time periods enumerated by the applicable convention, defense counsel needs to then determine how much a passenger is entitled to receive for the baggage claim.  Article 22 of the Warsaw Convention as modified by the Hague Protocol requires that a carrier pay a passenger two hundred and fifty francs per kilogram in the case of claims for checked baggage. Article 22 of the Montreal Convention requires that the carrier pay 1,131 SDRs for checked baggage claims in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay.  

 
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