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Passengers do have rights

Dear Editor,

The last 50 years have been a witness to an increased reliance on aviation by the general public (i.e., the common man). Notwithstanding random acts of terror, aviation remains the safest and most preferred mode of international travel.

While many persons have become more and well versed with the procedures of international travel, which have expanded dramatically post 9/11, knowledge of passenger rights on international flights remains elusive to many. This is no doubt due in part to the fact that air carriers do not typically promote air passenger rights.

However, passengers travelling on international flights do have rights.

For the purpose of international passenger rights, an international flight can be defined in two ways. As the name suggests, the first is a flight starting in one nation and ending in another nation. However, the second, while also incorporating the concept of travel between different nations, includes a flight that starts and ends in one nation but which is a leg of or forms part of a larger journey or itinerary between nations.

This second way of understanding an international flight is important as it expands the field of instances when affected passengers may claim. Also, this second understanding of international flights is of great importance to and from destinations, such as “Family Islands” in The Bahamas, that do not offer many or any direct travel options to certain external jurisdictions.

Basis of international passenger rights

There are two international regimes which set out the rights that passengers have against air carriers on international flights. They are: The 1929 Warsaw Convention; and, The 1999 Montreal Convention.

Conventions are typically referred to by the location in which the diplomatic conference was held which produced the convention. While the above conventions are referred to colloquially as stated, the formal name for both conventions is: The Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air. In instances where numerous conventions have been signed at a particular location, regard to the year of signing of a particular convention is had in order to differentiate – e.g., 1999 Montreal Convention.

The 1929 Warsaw Convention is incorporated into Bahamian statute law and is enforced in The Bahamas. However, The Bahamas is also signatory to the 1999 Montreal Convention, since May 28, 1999. Now in 2018, after almost 20 years, the Montreal Convention remains unincorporated into Bahamian law.

International passenger rights

The 1929 Warsaw Convention provides six scenarios in which a passenger may claim damages:

1. Death of a passenger during an accident;

2. Wounding or other bodily injury to passenger during an accident;

3. Destruction or damage to passenger baggage;

4. Loss of passenger baggage

5. Delay in the carriage of passengers;

6. Delay in the carriage of baggage or goods.

Enforcing passenger rights

The process towards enforcing passenger rights is very simple. First, a passenger is required to make a formal complaint in writing to the carrier. The nature of the complaint determines the timeline, if any, that this should be done within. Second, a passenger may be required to initiate legal proceedings, within two years, if direct negotiations with the carrier involved prove unsuccessful.

– Keith O. Major Jr., LL.M., aviation attorney

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