United States: Damages For Delay Of International Flights Under Article 19 Of The Montreal Convention

Flight delays are a common aspect of international carriage. Recent studies taken by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, a department of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, (RITA) indicate that in May of 2012, as many as 22.39% of all flights out of Miami International Airport were delayed by fifteen minutes or more. Click here to see RITA Ranking of Major Airport On-Time Departure Performance in May 2012 (last visited August 27, 2012) . Flight delays can have frustrating consequences for international travelers—such as missed connections, missed business meetings, and loss of vacation time—but at what point does the passenger's frustration equate to liability consequences for the airline?

In a recent suit filed in the Southern District of Florida, Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., No. 11–CV–23233, 2012 WL3562126 (S.D. Fla. August 17, 2012), the pro se plaintiff-passenger sought damages in the amount of $5,000,000 as a result of the delay of his flight from Kingston, Jamaica to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that he "had to remain at the airport overnight outside the terminal building, which was under repairs, under adverse weather and became ill at the airport in Kingston, Jamaica." He also alleged that he had suffered "anxiety to make the flight since his permanent resident alien card would expire on September 9, 2009, and he would encounter problems with immigration upon arrival in the United States." Id. at *2.

Although the Southern District quickly dismissed Plaintiff's claims for emotional injuries under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (The Montreal Convention), which governs international flights, holding that only economic damages are available, the court did not reach the question of what types of economic damages are recoverable, and what, if any, are the limitations to recovery. Id.

Article 19 of the Montreal Convention provides that a carrier can be liable for damages to passengers caused by delay in transportation. However, Article 19 further provides that, the "carrier shall not be liable for damage occasioned by delay if it proves that it and its servants and agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for it or them to take such measures." "All measures" has not been interpreted to mean an airline must do everything in its power to avoid delay, only what is reasonable. The carrier need only show that it took "all precautions that in sum are appropriate to the risk, i.e. measures reasonably available to defendant and reasonably calculated, in cumulation, to prevent the subject loss." Verdesca ex rel., v. American Airlines, Inc., 3:99–CV–2022–BD, 2000 WL 1538704, ( N.D. Texas Nov. 17, 2004).

Courts have found that airlines behaved reasonably in delay situations caused by increased security measures, mechanical failures, and weather disruptions. See Peralta v. Continental Airlines, Inc., No. C 98–1252 MJJ, 1999 WL 193393, at *2 (N.D. Cal. March 30, 1999) (airliner not liable for delay caused by security measures); Helge Management, Inc. v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. 11–10299–RBC, 2012 WL 2990728, (D. Mass. July 19, 2012) (airliner not liable for delay costs due to maintenance issues); Cohen v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 751 F. Supp. 2d 677 (S.D. N.Y. 2010) (airliner not liable for delay costs due to weather).

The question of what constitutes "all reasonable measures" is one for the fact finder. Where the airliner is found not to have taken all reasonable measures and is, as a result, liable, Article 19 permits the recovery of compensatory damages which are reasonable and foreseeable, damages for inconvenience, but bars the recovery of punitive damages and emotional damages.  Daniel v. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., 59 F. Supp. 2d 993, 986 (N.D. Cal. 1998). Therefore, the cost of the lost days at a vacation resort, car rentals, or hotel accommodations could be recoverable, but damages for any emotional impact of the delay are not. Lee v. American Airlines, Inc., 03-10178, 2004 WL 18008 (5th Cir. Jan. 14, 2004) (holding that nonrefundable vacation expenses are recoverable under Article 19, but the loss of a "refreshing memorable vacation" is a re-characterization of mental anguish damages, which are not recoverable).

A passenger's ability to recover under Article 19, however, is also subject to the per-passenger liability limit of 4,694 Special Drawing Rights (currently about US $7,200) set forth in Article 22(1).  See also Inflation Adjustments to Liability Limits Governed by the Montreal Convention Effective December 30, 2009, 74 F.R. 59017-18 (Nov. 16, 2009) (increasing the limitation from 4,150 SDRs to 4,694 SDRs.)  This liability limit is removed pursuant to Article 22(5), if the passenger can prove that the delay damages resulted from airline conduct "done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that damage would probably result." This provision has a two-fold requirement, both a showing of reckless behavior and a causal connection between the behavior and the delay. This is a heavy burden for a passenger to meet, often requiring extreme circumstances. See Shah v. Pan American World Services, Inc., 148 F. 3d 84, (2d Cir. 1998) (hijacking in Karachi, Pakistan; fraudulent misrepresentation of adequacy of security system is willful misconduct). 

In sum, the individual facts and circumstances both behind the reasons for the delay and the airline's actions to accommodate passengers following the delay in each case will ultimately determine whether liability exists and the extent of available damages. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions