In brief - Following recent review, compensation limits for air carriage are rising which benefit air travellers but have a flow-on cost for carriers

Domestic carriage liability limits

New regulations (being the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Regulations 2019) took effect from 1 October 2019 increasing the carriage liability limits for carriage within Australia and its territories of passengers and baggage under the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act 1959.

Under subsection 31(1) of the Act, the liability limit for claims in respect of personal injury and death for Australian domestic carriage was increased from AU$725,000 to AU$925,000.

In relation to carriage within Australia that is part of an international carriage, under section 31 (1A) of the Act, the limit increased from 260,000 to 480,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) (currently approximately AU$975,000).

The liability limit under subsection 31(2) of the Act for claims for damage or loss of checked baggage increased from AU$1,600 to AU$3,000 and, for unchecked baggage under subsection 31(3), the liability limit has been increased from AU$160 to AU$300.

International carriage liability limits

In relation to international carriage to which the Montreal Convention 1999 applies, the limits for injury and death under Article 21 will be increased from 28 December 2019 (unless a majority of member States reject the increase - which seems unlikely) from 113,100 SDRs (currently approximately AU$230,000) to 128,821SDRs (currently approximately AU$260,000), on a strict liability basis without the need to prove fault. (It is possible to obtain higher compensation if it can be established that damage was due to negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its servants or agents, or was solely due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of a third party.)

The increase in limit for baggage will be from 1,131 SDRs (currently approximately AU$2,295) to 1,288 SDRs (currently approximately AU$2600).

Cargo limits for carriage subject to the Montreal Convention 1999 will increase from 19 SDRs (currently approximately AU$38.50) per kilogramme to 22 SDRs (currently approximately AU$44.65) per kilogramme of the affected cargo.

Finally, the limitation on claims for loss caused by delay will increase from 4,694 SDRs (currently approximately AU$9,525) to 5,346 SDRs (currently approximately AU$10,847).

The proposed increases in Montreal Convention limits (of 13.9%) are based on the rate of inflation since the limitation was last reviewed in 2008.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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