Indemnification of victims of an air disaster when the carrier did not hold an operating licence

by | 30 Dec 2022

The law of October 8, 2021 amended Article L. 6421-4 of the French Transportation Code on the liability of the air carrier in the context of a domestic and free flight. It now states that the liability of a carrier not holding an operating license is governed by the Montreal Convention.

Article L. 6421-4 of the French Transportation Code reads:

“However, unless otherwise agreed, the liability of an air carrier performing gratuitous carriage of persons shall not exceed the amount specified in Article 21, paragraph 1, of the Convention referred to in the first paragraph of this Article, unless it is proved that the damage was caused by a fault attributable to the carrier or his servants or, if the damage exceeds such amount, that it was caused by the inexcusable misconduct of the carrier or his servants. It is inexcusable to be guilty of wilful misconduct which involves awareness of the probability of damage and its reckless acceptance without good reason.

The liability of the air carrier for damage covered by the agreement referred to in the first paragraph may be sought only in accordance with the conditions laid down in this Article, irrespective of the persons who are the parties to the proceedings and of the title on which they claim to act.”

This reform goes in the direction of a better compensation of air accident victims in the sense that the Montreal Convention allows for a no-fault compensation up to 128,821 SDRs – value as of December 2019 – and beyond this threshold requires the demonstration of a simple fault of the carrier to incur its liability towards the passengers and their beneficiaries.