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
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.