In a Notice published in the Federal Register today, the Department of Transportation advises U.S. and certain foreign air carriers of inflation adjustments to liability limits of air carriers and foreign air carriers under the Montreal Convention. The Convention applies to U.S. and foreign air carriers that provide international carriage between the U.S. and other countries who are also parties to the Convention, as well as all air carriers who provide round trip foreign air transportation that originates and terminates in the U.S. The Convention limits an affected air carrier’s liability for damages for passenger death or injury, delay in passenger’s arrival, and the loss, delay or damage to baggage or cargo.
The liability limits are defined in terms of Special Drawing Rights (“SDR”), “a defined basket of major currencies periodically reviewed by the International Monetary Fund to reflect the relative importance of the constituent currencies.” As of October 28, 2009, a U.S. dollar’s value in terms of SDR s was $1.58. The increased limits in terms of SDRs are as follows: for destruction, loss, damage or delay of cargo 19 per kilogram (currently 17); for destruction, loss, damage, or delay of baggage, per passenger, 1,131 (currently 1,000); for delay in carriage of passengers, 4,694 (currently 4,150); “strict liability” for death or bodily injury to passengers, 113,100 (currently 100,000). The increased amounts take effect December 30, 2009 and reflect a 13% rate of inflation between 2003 and 2008.
The Notice advises affected air carriers to revise their contracts of carriage, tariffs, required notices, and practices to conform to the increased limits or risk sanction by the Aviation Enforcement Office for unfair or deceptive business practice and unfair methods of competition in violation of 49 U.S.C. 41712. For further information regarding the Notice, you may contact Nicholas Lowry, Attorney, Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings (C-70), 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE., Washington, DC 20590, (202) 366-9349.