Air Travel Personal Injury

Passengers who are injured while travelling on international flights are protected by the Montreal Convention of 1999, explains Solicitor John Whelan.


The Montreal Convention of 1999 applies to the international carriage of persons, baggage or cargo performed by aircraft. Two Articles of this Convention are of particular interest to passengers who suffer death or injury when travelling on international flights.

Article 17, paragraph 1, states: The carrier 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.

Article 21, which deals with compensation in case of death or injury of passengers, states that:

  1. For damages arising under paragraph 1 of Article 17, the carrier shall not be able to exclude or limit its liability.
  2. The carrier shall not be liable for damages arising under paragraph 1 of Article 17 to the extent that they exceed for each passenger 100 000 Special Drawing Rights if the carrier proves that:
    1. such damage was not due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its servants or agents; or
    2. such damage was solely due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of a third party.

Amongst other provisions, the Convention also requires carriers to provide advance payments to meet immediate needs where passengers suffer death or injury, and allows lawsuits to be brought before the courts in a passenger’s principal place of residence. So, for Irish passengers, this means that if you suffer a personal injury abroad when travelling on a flight covered by the Convention, your case may be brought before the Irish courts.

EU airlines

In 2002, EU regulations were amended to bring them into line with the Montreal Convention. For the flight in question, the air carrier must provide each passenger with a written indication of:

  • the carrier's liability in respect of death or injury;
  • the carrier's liability when baggage is destroyed, lost or damaged;
  • the carrier's liability in respect of damage occasioned by delay.


There is no financial limit on compensation in the event of death or injury and air carriers are required to make advance payments to cover immediate economic needs. In addition carriers have certain liabilities for passenger delays, baggage delays, and lost, destroyed or damaged baggage. For baggage claims, the passenger must complain to the air carrier in writing.


Non-EU airlines

In countries that are covered by the Montreal Convention, liability limits are the same as for EU airlines. Elsewhere, liability limits can vary.


Travel insurance

It is always advisable to purchase travel insurance before embarking on a journey. You should also check the liability limits of the airlines that you will be travelling with.


How we can help

If you suffer a personal injury or loss while travelling and are unsure where to turn, John Whelan, Solicitor in Whelan Law, in Cashel can answer your questions and provide advice. Contact us for details.