New protocol increasing airline liability to enter into force by May

Some time this year, and perhaps as early as the end of May, a new international convention should come into force governing the legal liability of international flights. This international legislation, known as the Montreal Convention of 1999 (MC99), is not currently atop the agenda for airline risk managers while war looms in Iraq. Indeed, the convention may not go into force in the United States or the European Union until at least the end of this year, or whenever they file their formal ratifications with the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal. Nevertheless, 25 other countries have so far ratified MC99, and only five more countries are needed to ratify the document for it to be adopted into international law. MC99 then comes into force in those countries which ratified it on the 60th day following the date of deposit of the 30th instrument of ratification. The ratifying countries are: Belize; the Czech Republic; Greece; Kenya; Kuwait; Mexico; Namibia; Nigeria; Panama; Slovakia; Slovenia; Peru; Romania; Paraquay; Macedonia; Japan; the United Arab Emirates; Jordan; Bahrain; Botswana; New Zealand; Canada; Barbados; Syrian Arab Republic; and Cyprus. There may be a flurry of formal acceptances in the not-too-distant future which would push MC99 over the magical 30-country mark. The International Civil Aviation Organization Council is hosting a Worldwide Air Transport Conference between March 24-29 in Montreal, and this may be a time when countries decide to file their official assent for MC99. The conference «would be a good occasion for ratifications to take place,» observed Olga Koumartsioti, economic regulation director for the Department of Air Transport at the European Commission in Brussels. Should that happen, then MC99 would come into force 60 days later in the countries which have ratified it and would replace the Warsaw Convention of 1929, which has dominated international aviation law for 74 years. Under MC99, some things won’t change, such as for cargo liability damage limitations. But MC99 will formally introduce some major changes from the Warsaw system. The air carrier’s liability regime is quite different. MC99 imposes strict air carrier liability for the first SDR100,000 of provable compensatory damages for passenger bodily injury or death, occasioned by an accident occurring on board the aircraft or in the course of embarking or disembarking. MC99 also has no specified limits on the amount of recoverable/provable compensatory damages in excess of SDR100,000 in the event the air carrier fails to prove freedom from fault in causing the accident. (Reuters)