Airlines, Liability & Passenger Claims

The international convention known as the Montreal Treaty governs several aspects of the relationship between passengers and airlines, particularly with respect to recoverable losses claimed by passengers in contract or tort. The Treaty is designed to ensure that passengers travelling between countries that are parties to the Treaty are treated similarly and that claims are handled efficiently. Where the Treaty governs, the airline and the passenger cannot agree to reduce the limits on the airline’s liability. The parties are however free to expand the airline’s liability.

Jamaica is a party to the Montreal Treaty.

The Treaty establishes the airline’s liability for particular losses, which are denominated in “Special Drawing Rights.” Special Drawing Rights are established by the IMF and the US Dollar equivalent is published daily on the IMF website.

Exoneration of Airline

In all cases, the airline will not be liable for damages caused or contributed to by the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the person claiming compensation. In addition, it is important to note that the airline is liable only for actual damages.


In what are likely to be rare circumstances, airlines may be liable for damages to passengers caused by the airline’s delay. Where it is proven that the airline and its servants and agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for them to take such measures, the Treaty exonerates the airline. Damages suffered due to delays caused by weather, mechanical problems or by air traffic control or congestion will not be recoverable. Where a passenger suffers recoverable damages from an airline’s delay, the airline’s liability is limited to 4150 Special Drawing Rights, or roughly US$6,000.

Loss or Destruction of Baggage

In the case of loss, destruction, damage or delay in delivery of baggage the airline’s liability is limited to 1000 Special Drawing Rights, or roughly US$1,450, unless the passenger has made a special declaration of value for the baggage. Where the baggage has been damaged, the passenger must make a written complaint promptly after the discovery of the damage, and at the latest, within seven (7) days of receipt of the baggage.

Death or Bodily Injury

Where an accident causing death or injury occurs on board the aircraft the airline is liable for the passenger’s damages up to 100,000 Special Drawing Rights, or roughly US$150,000. Where the damages suffered exceed that threshold, the airline is entitled to prove that it is not liable.

Limitation Period

All passenger claims governed by the Treaty must be brought within two (2) years of the date of travel.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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