Limits of liability for passengers and goods

What are limitations to liability?

All air carriers’ tariffs must set out how an air carrier limits its liability with respect to the transportation of passenger and goods.

This part of an air carrier’s tariff addresses the extent of an air carrier’s liability in cases of personal injury or death arising out of accidents during air transportation, passenger delays and also establishes the maximum levels of damages to be paid for instances of lost, damaged or delayed baggage.

For international travel, limits of liability are subject to the Convention for the Unification of certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (otherwise known as the Montreal Convention), or the Warsaw Convention in countries that have not ratified the Montreal Convention. Both the Warsaw and the Montreal Conventions are incorporated into Canadian law by virtue of the Carriage by Air Act.

The limits of liability set in the Montreal Convention are reviewed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) at five-year intervals to determine whether the levels of liability need to be revised for inflation (the last such revision occurred in December 2019).

International tariffs must include the terms of any applicable international convention.

On July 15, 2019, the provisions of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) relating to baggage came into effect. These provisions apply the same rules and liability limits for lost and damaged baggage for domestic services as those set out in the Montreal Convention for international air travel. Therefore, all air carriers offering domestic services are required to update their domestic tariffs to reflect these new liability limits. For delayed baggage, the applicable limits of liability and related terms and conditions are those set out by airlines in their domestic tariffs (the contract of transport between the passenger and the airline), which are expected to be consistent with the Montreal Convention.

For wording about the Montreal Convention that can be incorporated into tariffs, see the sample tariff for scheduled flights.

What are the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions?

The Montreal Convention is an international treaty that came into force in 2003. It modernizes the rules of the Warsaw Convention of 1929. Some countries are party to both the Montreal Convention and the Warsaw convention, some are party to only one or the other and others are party to neither.  If a country has not ratified the Montreal Convention, the Warsaw Convention may still apply. If a country has not ratified either the Montreal or Warsaw Conventions, then no international treaty would apply and the carrier would establish its own limits of liability.

The Montreal Convention establishes limits of carrier liability for international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo as follows:

  • In the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay in relation to the carriage of cargo – Limit = 22 SDR per Kilo (Article 22, paragraph 3)
  • In the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay with respect to baggage – Limit = 1288 SDR per passenger (Article 22, paragraph 2)
  • In relation to damage caused by delay in the carriage of persons – Limit = 5,346 SDR  per passenger (Article 22, paragraph 1)

In the case of bodily injury or death, a carrier is liable only for damages sustained in an accident which took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.  A carrier is liable for damages not exceeding 128 821 SDR and cannot exclude or limit its liability. The carrier is not liable for damages exceeding 128 821 SDR if the carrier proves that a) such damage was not due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its servants or agents; or, b) such damage was solely due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of a third party.

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