Law change ensures stronger legal rights island passengers

The legal rights of Caribbean Netherlands air passengers will be better protected in the near future when the international Montreal Convention becomes effective on travels out of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, and on flights between these three islands.

The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday approved a change to the Civil Code and the Air Transport Law for the Caribbean Netherlands. The law changes required no voting and were hammered out as a formality. The Montreal Convention is now entirely applicable, which means a strengthening of the position of passengers towards airlines.

The Montreal Convention, adopted in 1999, amended important provisions of the existing Warsaw Convention’s regime concerning compensation for the victims of air disasters. The Montreal Convention attempts to re-establish uniformity and predictability of rules relating to the international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo.

Under the Montreal Convention, air carriers are strictly liable for proven damages up to 113,100 so-called Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a mix of currency values established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This amount translates to about 130,000 euros or US $173,360 per passenger in case of physical injury or death. The amount under the Montreal Convention is considerably higher than currently secured in the Caribbean Netherlands Air Transport Law which incorporates the older Warsaw Convention and a few other regulations.

The Montreal Convention also allows the victim or their families to sue foreign carriers where they maintain their principal residence, and requires all air carriers to carry liability insurance. The Montreal Convention furthermore changes and generally increases the maximum liability of airlines for lost baggage to a fixed amount 1,131 SDR per passenger. It requires airlines to fully compensate travellers the cost of replacement items purchased to a maximum of 1,131 SDR. At 21 days any delayed baggage is considered lost, even if the airline delivers it after that period. The amount in case of damage to luggage is 19 SDR per kilogramme.

The Montreal Convention was already applicable to the Netherlands. The Dutch Government deemed it “undesirable” to have different law systems within one country. Therefore, it was proposed to change the Caribbean Netherlands Civil Code and Air Transport Law.

International and national air traffic from the Caribbean Netherlands and flights between the three islands will be subject to the Montreal Convention following the official proclamation by Royal Decree. The law proposal still has to pass through the First Chamber, the Senate.

The change to the two laws implies that passengers on national flights, including flights to the Netherlands in the case of Bonaire, will have the same legal rights as those on international flights departing from the Caribbean Netherlands.

International flights from St. Eustatius and Saba to St. Kitts and Nevis don’t resort under the Montreal Convention nor the Warsaw Convention. The Caribbean Netherlands Air Transport Law will remain applicable to these specific flights in order to secure the liability of the carrier in case of injury or death, and the damage to luggage and goods.

The Daily Herald.

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