Tea or Coffee ? And the Montreal Convention?


You’re on your way home after two weeks of bliss in the sun. You’ve just settled down to watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2 when instead of marvelling at how good a dancer Baby Groot[1] seems to be, your arms are suddenly covered in hot coffee. Realising what has happened, the flight crew cannot do enough to apologise for what’s happened and douse you with water and then generally try to reassure you that you will be alright once you land.

After you’ve arrived home, you go to A&E.  You’re  told you suffered serious scalding that is going to take  months to heal and even then, you may be left with some scarring.

You think about bringing a claim but worry about how complicated that must be as after all, your accident happened whilst you were 35,000 feet above the Atlantic. It must be very difficult to work out which law would apply and who knows where a claim could actually be brought.

Think again. Provided you have a Solicitor who knows about the Montreal Convention 1999 and how that works, your claim is not that complicated and different from other types of claim at all.

What’s the Montreal Convention then?

The Montreal Convention 1999 is a set of rules that govern international carriage by air. The purpose is to harmonise international laws relating to civil liability and ensure passengers can enforce their rights as simply as possible. It is part of the law of England and Wales.

So how does it work?

The Montreal Convention gives passengers the right to claim compensation for death or personal injury from the airline on which they travelled.

Providing that airline is based in a country that has signed up to the Montreal Convention (and the vast majority of countries have done), and your flight was an international one, a claim can be brought under Article 17.

Article 17?

Article 17 of the Montreal Convention says that the airline is ‘liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking’.

On the basis that you can prove you had an accident on board the flight or for that matter, whilst getting on or coming off the flight, Article 17 says that the airline must pay you compensation for your injuries.

That sounds like I don’t have to show someone was actually at fault?

That’s right. Article 17 creates what lawyers call  ‘strict liability’ meaning that as long as you can prove you suffered an accident (by which is meant an unexpected or unusual event that was external to yourself) and your claim is  worth less than 100,000 Special Drawing Rights (we’ll come onto that in a moment), the airline is liable to pay compensation.

Special Drawing Rights? What are they?

Compensation under the Montreal Convention is calculated according to Special Drawing Rights or SDRs.

SDRs were created by the International Monetary fund. A single SDR is equivalent to £1 or thereabouts.

Unless you have suffered very serious injuries, your claim is unlikely to exceed 100,000 SDRs.

But I was over Atlantic when I had my accident. Where do I bring my claim?

The Montreal Convention is very much geared toward passengers and making their lives as simple as possible when it comes to bringing a claim.

Article 33 gives you a choice of jurisdictions (places to bring your claim) that effectively means you can bring your claim in your home country regardless of where you were travelling from.

Are there any time limits to bringing a claim?


You have 2 years from the date of your accident. This is a strict time limit and unlike time limits that apply to other types of personal injury, it cannot be varied.

So what should I do next?

If you have had an accident either on board a flight or whilst getting on or coming off your flight in the past 2 years, you need to seek advice as soon as possible from us about bringing your claim. At Gerard McDermott QC Ltd, we have experience of dealing with accidents that have happened on board flights and at airports and can help you bring your claim.

Damian McDermott

Gerard McDermott QC Ltd

T: 0161 304 4305

E: [email protected]

[1] It is acknowledged that Baby Groot is the creation of Stan Lee / Marvel Comics. He/it is used here purely as an example of what can be expected from the opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

















[1] It is acknowledged that Baby Groot is the creation of Stan Lee / Marvel Comics. He/it is used here purely as an example of what can be expected from the opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy 2.