CJEU: employers can claim for damages under Montreal for their empolyees' flight delays

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

Upon request of the Lietuvos Aukščiausiasis Teismas (Supreme Court of Lithuania) in proceedings between Air Baltic Corporation AS (‘Air Baltic’) and Lietuvos Respublikos specialiųjų tyrimų tarnyba (Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania - ‘the Investigation Service’), the Court of Justice of the European Union has provided an interpretation of the Montreal Convention.

The Investigation Service, acting through a travel agency, purchased flight tickets in order for two of its agents to travel on official business between Vilnius (Lithuania) and Baku (Azerbaijan), via Riga (Latvia) and Moscow (Russia). According to the schedule, the agents concerned would leave Vilnius at 9.55 on 16 January 2011 and would arrive in Baku at 22.40 the same day, and the carrier on the flights between Vilnius, Riga and Moscow would be Air Baltic. The Investigation Service’s agents left Vilnius and arrived in Riga on schedule. However, the following flight left Riga and landed in Moscow behind schedule. Consequently, they were unable to connect on to the flight they were scheduled to take from Moscow to Baku. Air Baltic put them on another flight, which left Moscow and arrived in Baku one day later than originally scheduled.

Since the delay before the agents arrived at their final destination extended the time of their official business travel by over 14 hours, the Investigation Service paid them LTL 1 168.35 (approximately EUR 338) in travel expenses and State social security contributions, as it was required to do under Lithuanian legislation. The Investigation Service then sought to be compensated for that amount by Air Baltic, who did not agree to do so.

In those circumstances, the Investigation Service brought proceedings before the Vilniaus miesto 1-asis apylinkės teismas (First District Court of the City of Vilnius) seeking to have Air Baltic ordered to pay it compensation in the amount of LTL 1168.35 (approximately EUR 338) by way of damages. By judgment of 30 November 2012, that court upheld its action. Air Baltic appealed against that judgment before the Vilniaus apygardos teismas (Regional Court, Vilnius), which dismissed the appeal and upheld that judgment by a judgment of 7 November 2013.

Air Baltic then lodged an appeal in cassation before the Lietuvos Aukščiausiasis Teismas (Supreme Court of Lithuania) which decided to stay the proceedings and to refer a reference to the CJEU for preliminary ruling.

The Court held that Articles 19, 22 and 29 of the Montreal Convention must be interpreted as meaning that an air carrier which has concluded a contract of international carriage with an employer of persons carried as passengers, such as the employer at issue in the main proceedings, is liable to that employer for damage occasioned by a delay in flights on which its employees were passengers pursuant to that contract, on account of which the employer incurred additional expenditure. The Court referred to Article 31 of the Vienna Convention of 23 May 1969 on the Law of Treaties, which codifies general international law and is binding on the European Union and states that a treaty is to be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to its terms in their context and in the light of its object and purpose. Article 19 of the Montreal Convention which defines which damage is compensable according to the event that caused it, does not specify in any manner whatsoever who may have suffered that damage. In those circumstances, Article 19 of the Montreal Convention, although not providing explicitly for an air carrier to be liable to an employer such as the one at issue in the main proceedings in the event of damage occasioned by delay of flights carried out pursuant to a contract of international carriage binding that employer and carrier, lends itself to being interpreted as applying not only to damage caused to passengers themselves but also to damage suffered by an employer.

CJEU judgement of Feb. 17, 2016 in case C-429/14 - Air Baltic

http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text&docid=174424&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir&occ=first&part=1&cid=784487

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