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Airline Liability for Passenger Delay and Denied Boarding

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Title: Airline Liability for Passenger Delay and Denied Boarding
Author(s): Hämäläinen, Liina
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Discipline: Obligation law
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2013
Passenger delay and denied boarding in air travel is currently regulated by two influential international and regional legal regimes: The Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, Signed in Montreal on May 28th 1999 (the Montreal Convention) and the EC Regulation 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council (the EC Regulation). The intention of the Montreal Convention was to harmonise the several international agreements that were governing the industry and to create a uniform regime that would provide passengers and airlines a reliable regulation. Even though the European Union and its Member States are signatories to the Montreal Convention, the European Union introduced the EC Regulation to further shield passengers from the negative effects of denied boarding, cancellation and delay. However, what the EC Regulation fails to sufficiently consider is the sort of natural events, such as the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption and the airspace closure that ensued, as airlines are now forced to pay substantial compensation to passengers for events completely outside of their control. Since the introduction of the new regime the Court of Justice of the European Union has given a number of controversial judgments concerning the liability provisions of the EC Regulation and resulting into ambiguity as two conflicting guidelines now govern airline liability. Preserving uniformity in the application of liability is extremely important for air carriers and passengers alike. As the Montreal Convention expressly states that the remedies it provides are exclusive and directly address the issue of airline liability to passengers for damages suffered as a consequence of delay, it could be argued that the establishment of conflicting EU Regulations raises serious cause for concern. It seems likely that amendments to, if not a repeal of, the EC Regulation will be made in the near future and the European Commission has already begun working on a revision of the Regulation.

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