The Legal Rights of Airline Passengers
Mr. S. M. Anwar, a former Chairman of the Legal Committee of ICAO, delivered a popular lecture on legal rights of airline passengers at PIA Training Centre auditorium on April 17, 2013. The main aim of his talk was to develop an awareness of the legal rights airline passengers have in different situations during air travel.
The lecture covered the rights of air passengers, which are legally recognized under the law, the latest being the Carriage by Air Act 2012 (Act), Pakistan, which implements the Montreal Convention 1999, and considerably improves the woefully inadequate domestic compensatory provisions in Pakistan prior to the introduction of the Act.
He argued that the basis of these rights is the contract of carriage which comes into existence as soon as a passenger buys a ticket. The ticket generally lays down or refers to principal conditions of contract of carriage. In the case of Shaheen Air International it is available on their ticket and website, www.shaheenair.com
The legal regime of compensation both for domestic and international travel revolves round the following provision:
“The Carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any operations of embarking or disembarking”
The Act lays the limits of compensation which is 100,000 SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) equal to approximately USD 150,000 for injury/death in international travel and PKR 5.0 million for domestic travel. There are the limits and are not legally payable in each and every case which depends on the economic loss of the passenger injured or killed in the accident.
The Act has also enhanced the limit of compensation for delay in the carriage of passenger baggage.
He stated that sky is the limit of the compensation in case of negligence or wrongful act or omission of the Carrier or its servants or agents. A fifth venue, namely the permanent place of residence of the passenger has also been added for filing claims. A time limit has been laid down for filing written complaints for compensation or else the case is time-barred.
While the law protects the interests of the air passengers it also provides certain exonerations to the Carrier. The main ones are as under:
- The Carrier is not liable if the injury was not caused during embarking/disembarking or on board the aircraft or was caused or contributed by the wrongful act or omission of the passenger himself.
- The Carrier is not liable for any damage resulting from delay in the carriage of passengers or their baggage if the Carrier or its servants took all reasonable measures to avoid the delay or it was impossible to take those measures.
- No consequential or punitive or non compensatory damages are admissible. The compensation is for restitution only.
The lecture was largely attended and was followed by questions and answers as well as lively discussion in the light of recent accidents and claims by affected parties in Pakistan.