A 73-Year Odyssey: The Time Has Come For a New International Air Liability System

The authors of this article (Paragraph No. 35,151) write that, in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedies and with a substantial increase in international air crashes over the last two years, it has become imperative that a clear, unified and modernized international air liability system come into force as soon as possible. The authors begin with a historical perspective of the air carrier liability regime. The Warsaw Convention, the first modern treaty addressing international passengers' rights and air carriers' responsibilities, introduced the concept of absolute liability for covered accidents, subject to significant limitations on recoverable damages, and where litigation against an airline could be filed. However, a consequence of the 1955 Hague Protocol and the Montreal Intercarrier Agreement of 1966 was the destruction of the unified liability system. IATA's modernization and extension of the 1966 agreement resulted in the Kuala Lumpur IATA Intercarrier Agreement (IIA) of 1997, which established a system of strict liability without the arbitrary monetary limits set forth in the Warsaw Convention. Several recent international air disaster cases have now been litigated under the IIA. These cases are discussed in some detail by the authors, who conclude that the IIA liability regime, properly construed as intended and so long as the agreement is not withdrawn, is a workable temporary solution that represents a major advance in the rights of families of passengers killed during international flights. However, the authors note that the IIA was meant only to be a bridge between the Warsaw/Hague system and an ultimately comprehensive and modern international air transportation treaty suitable for the 21st Century. The authors urge the ratification of the 1999 Montreal Convention, which is designed to replace and unify the fractious "Warsaw system." The new Convention codifies the recent gains made with the IIA and elevates them to the status of international law, so that they cannot vanish at the whim of signatory parties. The treaty also adds a new "fifth jurisdiction" where cases may be filed. The authors discuss how this important new provision will clarify, facilitate and expedite damages resolutions by avoiding many contentious, costly and time consuming jurisdictional quarrels in court. It is urgent to restore a unified international air transportation liability system. The authors conclude that uniformity was what the original drafters of the Warsaw Convention had intended more than 73 years ago.

  • Corporate Authors:

    International Aviation Law Institute

    DePaul University College of Law, 25 E Jackson Boulevard
    Chicago, IL  United States  60604
  • Authors:
    • Rapoport, David E
    • Ephraimson-Abt, Hans
  • Publication Date: 2004


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Edition: Transfer Binder 1: 2001 to 2004
  • Pagination: pp 22151-22183
  • Monograph Title: Issues in Aviation Law and Policy

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01150753
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Feb 16 2010 2:49PM