Where is the “airport of destination” under the Montreal Convention?

The plaintiff booked a flight online from Hahn, Germany, to Naples, Italy, and back after four days in Naples. After the first flight, she
claimed that her baggage had been damaged. Upon her return, she filed a legal action with the Simmern Local Court (the legal venue at the
airport of departure), claiming compensation under the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air
(the Montreal Convention).

The Simmern Local Court dismissed the claim as inadmissible. The plaintiff filed an appeal with the Bad Kreuznach Regional Court,
which also dismissed the claim, but also allowed a further appeal to the Federal Court of Justice (BGH).

The last appeal was successful. According to article 33(1) of the Montreal Convention, the court at the airport of departure will have an
international jurisdiction. Hahn Airport should be regarded as the place of departure as well as the place of destination, because the
flights were booked together in one booking process.

From the BGH’s point of view, Naples was only a place of a stopover (see article 1(2) of the Montreal Convention). If a carriage by air
consists of several partial flights, it will be considered as a single carriage if it was agreed upon by the parties as a single service. This
will also apply even if it the different flight legs are performed by several successive air carriers. The final destination of such successive
carriage is the place of the contractually agreed last landing.

Furthermore, the BGH relied on the case law of the European Court of Justice, according to which the outward and return flights may
constitute a single transport operation within the meaning of article 1(3) of the Montreal Convention.

The decision of the BGH might be in line with the consumer-friendly case law on the EU Flight Compensation Regulation,(5) which also
leads to a legal venue at the airport of destination by using a legal fiction whereby the airport of departure is considered to be the place of
performance (this interpretation is questionable because the passenger would expect more than the services provided at this stage).
However, the BGH’s interpretation is not convincing. In this case, there was a relatively short time between the two flights. However, if the
traveller had booked an outbound flight and a return flight after a longer stay abroad (eg, a student spending a semester abroad) in a
single transaction, such a stay would not be defined as a “stopover”.

The term “stopover” could also be interpreted in another way: it could cover cases in which an aircraft lands but the passengers remain on
board and do not leave the aircraft at all (eg, for refuelling).

Read the original article here.

Author: Carsten Vyvers