The Hague Court of Arbitration for Aviation

In many cases, commercial disputes among members of the aviation sector are still resolved by litigation rather than arbitration, even though arbitration may offer several advantages for the parties involved in the dispute. The recently established Hague Court of Arbitration for Aviation (Hague CAA) could contribute to change this by offering specialized arbitration in aviation related matters.

Especially in the context of international commercial disputes within the aviation sector, arbitration offers several advantages compared to litigation. For instance, the possibility to appoint an arbitrator with special knowledge of the aviation sector, aviation law and the technology used instead of having the dispute decided by a judge with no link to the aviation sector, who is often heavily depending on the opinion of expert witnesses. Another practical advantage is that due to the widely ratified New York Convention, the international enforcement of arbitration awards is often much easier than enforcing rulings of national courts.

Further, by choosing arbitration in a country, in which none of the involved parties is based, a possible “homefield advantage” of one party is eliminated. The new Hague CAA is not affiliated with particular parts of the aviation industry and administered by the widely respected Netherlands Arbitration Institute (NAI), which further ensures the court´s neutrality.

Similar to other industry specific courts like the Court of Arbitration for Art (CAfA), the Chambre Arbitrage Maritime de Paris (CAMP) or the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Hague CAA´s main selling point is its specialization. By choosing the Hague CAA, parties have access to the court´s pool of aviation law and technology specialists, who can act as arbitrators, mediators, or experts in the proceedings.

As a consequence of its aviation specialization, the Hague CAA´s procedural rules were designed to meet the particular needs of the aviation sector, especially for speed and flexibility. For instance, the parties have the possibility to appoint an emergency arbitrator to decide urgent measures within a maximum of 15 days after his or her appointment. The Hague CAA is also offering more flexibility regarding the location of hearings and the possibility of their virtual attendance compared to litigation in most countries. Additionally, the procedural rules set forth expedited proceedings for amounts in dispute of less than € 10 million or when the parties consent thereto.

Another important way of dispute resolution and valid alternative to litigation is mediation. By choosing this way and finding an amicable solution, parties are often able to avoid high procedural costs and to continue their business relationship relatively unharmed. Mediation is also offered by the Hague CAA.

Overall, many parties are well advised to seriously consider resolving their disputes by mediation or arbitration rather than litigation. For members of the aviation sector, the newly established Hague CAA is a promising new venue for this purpose.

Lexology GTDT: Air Transport in Austria

We are happy to share that our aviation law team was chosen to author the chapter on Air Transport in Austria in the latest edition of Lexology´s Getting the Deal Through (GTDT).

The GTDT´s aim is to give readers quick access to country specific insights to a variety of topics. Thus, it is crucial for contributors to have a wide range of expertise while also being able to deliver relevant information in a compact, but still comprehensive way.

Luckily, our aviation team was perfectly prepared for this challenge. With our partner, Martina Flitsch, leading the way with her over 25 years of experience in the aviation field assisted by our two associates, Dominik Weiß and Aleksander Makal, who were, despite their young age, already able to gather several years of experience in advising many players on a variety of aviation related topics.

We invite you to check out the GTDT on Air Transport in Austria via the link below and to reach out to us for further information.

Air carriers can be liable for psychological injuries caused by accidents

The Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty for the unification of several rules for international air carriage to which 136 states and the European Union are parties. It is of major significance for the aviation sector and contains, inter alia, provisions on an air carrier´s liability in case of an international flight. Article 17 of the Montreal Convention stipulates that an air carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger caused by an accident that took place on board of an aircraft or while embarking or disembarking.

Since the term “bodily injury” is not defined in the Montreal Convention, questions were raised whether air carriers can also be held liable for psychological injuries caused by an accident.

In case C111/21, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) had to deal with such a case. The passenger in question embarked a flight operated by the former Austrian air carrier Laudamotion between London and Vienna. During take-off, the left engine of the aircraft exploded, causing an evacuation of the passengers. The passenger in question disembarked the aircraft via the emergency exit and was hurled several metres through the air by the jet blast from the right engine, which had not yet been shut down. As a consequence, the passenger suffered not only physical, but also psychological harm.

The Austrian courts (District Court Schwechat and upon an appeal the Regional Court Korneuburg) were of the opinion that psychological injuries do not fall within the meaning of “bodily injury” and are therefore not covered by Article 17 of the Montreal Convention. However, the passenger brought the case before the Austrian Supreme Court, which decided to refer this question to the CJEU.

The CJEU argued by taking into account the preparatory works which led to the Montreal Convention and its objectives that the situation of a passenger who has suffered a psychological injury as a result of an accident may be comparable to that of a passenger who has suffered bodily injury. Consequently, the CJEU stated that according to Article 17 of the Montreal Convention air carriers are liable for psychological injury, which is not linked to bodily injury. However, only if the passenger can demonstrate (by means in particular of a medical report and proof of medical treatment) the existence of an adverse effect on his psychological integrity of such gravity that it affects his general state of health and that it cannot be resolved without medical treatment.