Federal Aviation Accident Reports

Historical Considerations of International Treaties

A passenger engaged in international as opposed to purely domestic travel may be subject to severe limitations on the amount of damages s/he may recover that his/her domestic counterpart is not. The most important of these limitations arise from the Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Agreement.

The Warsaw Convention, officially entitled “Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air”, was actually the result of two international conferences. The first was held in Paris in 1925, the second in Warsaw in 1929. Although the United States was not a party thereto, it did proclaim adherence to the Warsaw Convention in 1934 pursuant to Congressional authority.

The Convention was drafted when international air travel was still in its infancy. Its purpose was two-fold. First, it established uniformity among the many countries relative to tickets, documentation and the like. Second, and more importantly, it was created to limit liability to prevent the air transportation companies from early financial ruin in the event of a single disaster.

The Warsaw Convention was officially amended by the Hague Protocol, a treaty proposed in 1955 at the Hague and signed by twenty-six countries. This Treaty was never ratified by the United States.

The United States deposited, on November 15, 1965, its formal Notice of Denunciation of the Convention to the Polish Government, to become effective May 15, 1966. The stated reason for the denunciation was the low limits the Convention set on liability for injury and death. The day before the denunciation was to take effect, it was withdrawn, and an Interim Agreement, CAB 18900, was submitted. Agreement CAB 18900 provided that the parties thereto agreed to include in their tariffs to be filed with the CAB a special contract by which the air carrier would waive certain defenses provided by the Warsaw Convention, and further, would waive the Convention’s limitation of liability up to $75,000. The Agreement, tariff, Notice to Passengers informing them of the changes and the CAB Order compose that which has become known as the “Montreal Agreement“.

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