Mar 10, 2008

Warsaw Convention, Wikipedia

The Warsaw Convention is an international convention which regulates liability for international carriage of persons, luggage or goods performed by aircraft for reward.

Originally signed in 1929 in Warsaw (hence the name), it was amended in 1955 at The Hague and in 1975 in Montreal. United States courts have held that, at least for some purposes, the Warsaw Convention is a different instrument from the Warsaw Convention as Amended by the Hague Protocol.

In particular, the Warsaw Convention:

  • mandates carriers to issue passenger tickets;
  • requires carriers to issue baggage checks for checked luggage;
  • creates a limitation period of 2 years within which a claim must be brought (Article 29); and
  • sets a carrier's liability to at least:
    • 250,000 Francs or 16,600 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for personal injury;
    • 17 SDR per kilogram for checked luggage and cargo,
    • 5,000 Francs or 332 SDR for the hand luggage of a traveller.

The sums limiting liability were originally given in Francs (defined in terms of a particular quantity of gold by article 22 paragraph 5 of the convention). These sums were amended by the Montreal Additional Protocol No. 2 to substitute an expression given in terms of SDR's. These sums are valid in the absence of a differing agreement (on a higher sum) with the carrier. Agreements on lower sums are null and void.

On April 1, 2007, the exchange rate was 1.00 SDR = 1.135 EUR or 1.00 SDR = 1.51 USD.

A court may also award a claiming party's costs, unless the carrier made an offer within 6 months of the loss (or at least 6 months before the beginning of any legal proceedings) which the claiming party has failed to beat.

The Montreal Convention, signed in 1999, will replace the Warsaw Convention system, once Montreal has been ratified by all states. Until then, however, there will be a patchwork of rules governing international carriage by air, as different states will be parties to different agreements (or no agreement at all).

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