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Achieving uniformity for airline passenger claims

The intent and purpose of the Montreal Convention was to clarify, harmonize, and achieve uniformity of rules governing claims arising from international air transportation.

The intent and purpose of the Montreal Convention was to clarify, harmonize, and achieve uniformity of rules governing claims arising from international air transportation. It was to create an orderly development of international air transport operations and the smooth flow of passengers, baggage and cargo.

Although the intent was to unify rules governing claims arising from international air transportation, there is no uniformity of process if a plaintiff can be treated differently depending on what Member Country they file in. It is creating unnecessary confusion as to the process frustrated passengers must take to get the redress afforded them by the Montreal Convention.

The Supreme Court has allowed an anti-consumer 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling to stand, requiring consumers to file lawsuits in multiple countries to preserve protections afforded by the treaty that governs all claims against airlines arising out of international flights, reported FlyersRights.org and Travelers United, Inc. The travel groups had filed an amici brief in December with the US Supreme Court in support of international consumer protections in the Montreal Convention.

The Court declined to hear an appeal from a controversial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling which dismissed a passenger claim for personal injury, because her lawyers filed the case timely in South Africa but not in the US within 2 years.

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org noted, “This decision leaves passengers with the onerous burden of having to file lawsuits in multiple countries to preserve their rights to recovery for personal injury, death, baggage or delay compensation against airlines. Passengers now face another expensive and time consuming hurdle, adding to the mountain of technical legal defenses already employed by airlines to defeat any passenger claim.”

“This US Supreme Court action undercuts the expressed intent of the Montreal Convention to make passenger claims uniform and simple, while limiting claim amounts. It is also a slap in the face of 200 other nations whose court filings will not be recognized by US courts, contrary the express intent and language of the Montreal Convention,” according to Charlie Leocha, President of Travelers United.

Johanna von Schoenebeck was injured on an international flight to San Francisco when a seat back collapsed on her neck, causing spinal injuries. After originally filing in South Africa, where the flight originated and where von Schoenebeck lived at the time, KLM Airlines waited for the two-year statute of limitations to expire before requesting a $23,000 bond for its attorney fees and suggesting that von Schoenebeck move the case to the United States. When von Schoenebeck re-filed in California, KLM immediately moved to dismiss for untimeliness, which was granted by a US District Court in San Francisco and affirmed by a split 2-1 decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A copy of the brief filed in the US Supreme Court is available at MOTION AND BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE FLYERS RIGHTS EDUCATION FUND AND TRAVELERS UNITED IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER’S PETITION FOR A WRIT OF CERTIORARI.

FlyersRights.org is the largest airline passenger advocacy organization. It is best known for spearheading the Passenger Bill of Rights and the rule against lengthy tarmac confinements. Flyersrights.org operates a toll-free hotline 877-FLYERS6, publishes a weekly newsletter at flyersrights.org, and maintains a staffed office in Washington, D.C. It is also appealing the FAA’s refusal to issue minimum seat and leg room standards to address shrinking seat size and leg room by airlines. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Case 16-1101, FlyersRights Education Fund v. FAA) will hear oral argument on March 10, 2017.

Travelers United is the country’s leading consumer travel advocacy group dealing with airlines, hotels, rail and bus transportation. Travelers United was the main consumer advocate that developed with DOT rules that provide 24 hours to correct mistakes in airline bookings, full-fare advertising rules, increases in lost/denied/delayed baggage compensation and denied boarding compensation. Travelers United also has lead efforts to eliminate hotel resort fees and develop cruise line consumer protections.