International Flights: Your Rights Under the Montreal Convention
Flying can be one of life’s great pleasures and a convenient way to get around. But sometimes things don’t go quite as planned, and being stuck in an airport terminal, delayed or canceled flight, or a missing bag can put an unexpected damper on your journey.
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Whether you’re just starting to plan your international travels or are dealing with a sudden disruption during them, understanding the ins and outs of the Montreal Convention is essential.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics: what is the Montreal Convention, who does it apply to, and for what circumstances? We’ll also provide tips for accessing compensation if your rights under the Montreal Convention have been violated.
What Is the Montreal Convention?
Have you ever experienced lost luggage, a canceled flight, or an injury during an international flight? If so, you may have rights to compensation under the Montreal Convention.
This international treaty sets out the legal rights and liabilities of passengers for air travel worldwide—so it’s important to know what it’s all about.
The Montreal Convention 1999, or MC99, is a legal agreement between airlines that establishes standards for compensation to passengers in the case of airline incidents such as lost luggage delays or cancelations, or personal injury during international flights.
The agreement covers most international flights within its signatory countries—including the United States, Canada, and Europe—and requires airlines to adhere to certain standards in order to protect world travelers.
This means that if you experience any of these issues while flying within one of the signatory countries of the Montreal Convention, you can count on having certain rights and entitlements as a passenger—including your right to claim compensation for any suffered inconvenience.
Knowing your rights under this important treaty can help make your journey smoother and more stress-free.
What is the difference between the Montreal Convention and EU 261/2004?
So what is the difference between the Montreal Convention and EU 261/2004?
The Montreal Convention (MC99) provides a basic set of rights and responsibilities while the EU 261/2004 is much more extensive and provides passengers with much stronger protection. The main differences between the two are:
- The MC99 comes into effect when international flights are involved but the EU 261/2004 applies to all flights operated by an EU-based airline (which includes flights departing from an airport outside the EU to an airport inside the EU).
- The MC99 outlines compensation limits for lost or delayed luggage, death or personal injury, and flight cancelations or delays, while the EU 261/2004 has no compensation limits (although some airlines may impose their own).
- The MC99 does not cover delays due to extraordinary circumstances, but disruption due to extraordinary circumstances may be covered under EU 261/2004.
- The MC99 does not provide for any reimbursement for inconvenience, emotional suffering, or social losses resulting from disruptions, but EU 261/2004 does in some cases.
- The MC99 only applies in cases where liability has been established, while with the EU 261/2004 there is a liability as soon as a disruption occurs.
In general, if you’re a passenger whose flight was delayed or canceled, lost luggage, or had an injury during an international flight, you should look into both conventions to learn your rights and get the compensation you deserve.
What Rights Does the Montreal Convention Provide?
Are you looking for answers about what you can do if a flight leaves you out of pocket? The Montreal Convention covers this, giving passengers a compensation framework should they experience a delayed, canceled, or overbooked flight, have luggage delayed or lost, or suffer an injury while on board.
Under the Convention, you are entitled to various levels of financial compensation depending on the circumstances of your case.
For luggage, you may be eligible for reimbursement of up to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – roughly equivalent to $1,700 US (as of January 2023) – for any damage, delay, or loss.
If your journey is delayed by more than five hours then you may be entitled to up to 4,150 SDRs (roughly $7,055 US). If it’s canceled then the amount rises to up to 6,420 SDRs (nearly $10,914 US) in certain cases.
And if the airline is responsible for any serious harm or death caused on board the aircraft then they may be liable for up to 100,000 SDRs – around US $170,000.
Note: The International Monetary Fund created Special Drawing Rights (SDR) as a form of reserve currency consisting of a “basket” of currencies. The SDR is utilized by the Montreal Convention.
The important thing is that any claims are submitted within two years of the incident(s) that led to it. With that timeframe in mind and with a clearer idea of what rights are available under international law with regard to air travel inconveniences such as these, now all that’s left is finding out where and how best to claim them.
Who Is Covered Under the Montreal Convention?
Do you know who the Montreal Convention covers? You guessed it—it covers you if you’re a passenger with international flights. That’s right—its aim is to protect passengers whose luggage was delayed or lost, whose flight was delayed or canceled, or who had injuries.
However, it’s important to note that the Montreal Convention only applies to passengers traveling on tickets issued by an airline that is based in a country that is a signatory of the Conventions. To make sure you are protected, it’s, therefore, best to check if your country is part of the Montreal Convention countries list before booking your ticket. If not, other rights will apply.
There are currently 138 countries that follow the Montreal Convention. Some of the notable countries include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. The convention has been ratified by most countries worldwide and is considered the standard for international air travel.
What’s not covered? Extraordinary circumstances such as war, riots, civil unrest, and epidemics are some instances that are excluded under the Montreal Convention. As these are independent of the airline’s operational control, no liability may be imposed on them for any injury or damages related to these extraordinary circumstances.
When it comes to lost or delayed baggage, there are limits on how much compensation an airline can claim from their insurance policy in this case—which provides basic protection for each passenger.
Airlines can also require written proof within seven days of your reported loss or delay in your luggage in order for you to be eligible for compensation.
What Are the Time Limits for Making a Claim?
If things go wrong with your international flight, you should know that there are time limits for making a claim. However, what these limits are can depend on the specific situation and whether your claims are for baggage delay, lost baggage, flight cancelations, or injuries.
Baggage delay and lost baggage
When it comes to claiming for baggage delay or lost luggage, the Montreal Convention sets out that you must make a claim within 21 days of when you received your bags. Any claim after this period won’t be accepted.
Flight cancelations and delays
For claims relating to flight delays or cancelations, passengers have two years from the date of arrival to make a claim for damages. This is regardless of the cause of such a delay or cancelation—even if it’s down to extreme weather conditions.
Injuries and death
Different time limits apply when claiming liability in the event of serious injury or death due to an accident on board an international flight. With this type of claim, passengers—or their dependents in case of death—have two years from the date the accident occurred to lodge a claim.
Ultimately, if you experience any issues with an international flight that falls under the Montreal Convention—such as delayed luggage, canceled flights, or injuries—you should act quickly as these timeframes are strict and there isn’t much room for leniency by airlines when it comes to claiming damages in such cases.
How Can You Make a Claim Under the Montreal Convention?
If something goes wrong with your international flight, you can make a claim under the Montreal Convention. This is a treaty between countries all over the world, which protects passengers in the event of a delay or cancelation of a flight, lost or damaged luggage, and even personal injury.
So how do you make a claim? First, you’ll need to make sure your international flight was covered under the Montreal Convention.
It’s important to note that this treaty doesn’t cover domestic flights, so it’s essential to check before making a claim.
Once you make sure your fight is covered by the Montreal Convention, here are the steps you should take:
- Take note of your airline carrier’s name and file reference number
- Gather evidence regarding the incident (receipts for lost/damaged luggage; reservation information for canceled/delayed flights; medical reports for any injuries)
- Contact your airline carrier as soon as possible to submit your claim (you must do this within seven days)
- Give the airline carrier up to 10 days after submitting your claim to resolve it informally
- If unresolved after 10 days—or if an agreement cannot be reached—you can seek legal advice and file a formal complaint with an aviation body or court in your home country
What Damages Can Be Claimed Under the Montreal Convention?
The Montreal Convention entitles passengers to compensations for damages resulting from delays and cancelations, injury or even death, and lost or damaged luggage. Let’s take a closer look at the breakdown of compensable damages.
If your international flight is delayed for two hours or more, you have the right to obtain a refund in full—or a return flight at a later date. If your delay is longer than five hours, you may also be entitled to compensation depending on the length of the flight.
As per the Montreal Convention, travelers are entitled to compensation if their flight is canceled without prior notice. Depending on the airline, you may be able to receive reimbursement for food and accommodation expenses incurred during any wait times caused by the cancelation.
Additionally, you can request a refund of your full ticket price if they’re unable to arrange an alternative flight within a certain timeframe.
Lost and Damaged Luggage
The Montreal Convention also covers lost or damaged luggage when traveling via international flights. You can be reimbursed for losses or damages up to 1,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) per passenger—SDRs are currency conversions based on International Monetary Fund exchange rates—even if you did not purchase additional insurance coverage.
The airline is also required to reimburse you for any items that are not replaced by them within 21 days—they must provide detailed documentation of each item that went missing and its replacement value in order to do so.
Traveling internationally carries many exciting possibilities, but if something goes wrong, it’s important to know your rights. Under the Montreal Convention, you can claim financial compensation if your flight is delayed, or canceled, or if your luggage is lost or damaged. You also have the right to be compensated if you sustain a personal injury during a flight.
The Montreal Convention offers passengers many protections, and those protections extend to almost all international flights. Knowing your rights under the Convention can help give you peace of mind when you’re traveling—and can help you get compensation if something does go wrong.
So, the next time you’re considering a trip abroad, remember to brush up on your rights in case of delays, cancelations, and other potential mishaps.
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