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“Liability of Airline for Damages Caused by Delay or Cancellation of International Airfare”

Written by: Vladimir M. Gorokhovsky

Aviation & Passengers’ Rights Lawyer                          
Pursuant to Article 19 of the Montreal Convention, an airline is strictly liable up to the sum of 4150 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) for damages sustained by a passenger as direct and proximate cause of delay or cancellation of international airfare. See, generally, Multilateral Convention for International Carriage by Air, Montreal, May 28, 1999., S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45, reprinted in 1999 WL 33292734 (2000). This general rule of strict liability applies only to international flights and is subject to a few well recognized defenses (such as “climatic defense,” “act of God”, boycotts and etc.). Sometimes, it is possible to overcome the above-referenced cap on damages if facts will show reckless disregard on the part of airline. See, Kupferman v. Pakistan International Airlines, 108 Misc. 2d 485 (N.Y. Civ. Ct. 1981)(holding that a fifteen-day delay in delivery of a plaintiff’s baggage is sufficient to demonstrate willful misconduct under the Warsaw Convention).
Furthermore, the statute of limitation as set forth by Article 35(1) of the Montreal Convention is two (2) years. The Article states in pertinent part that “the right to damages shall be extinguished if an action is not brought within a period of two years, reckoned from the date of arrival at the destination, or from the date on which the aircraft ought to have arrived, or from the date on which the carriage stopped.” Id.
Although terms of tariff filed by airline with DOT are generally binding upon a passenger, however, if tariff’s terms are conflicting with specific remedies afforded to international air passengers by the Montreal Convention, such conflicting terms of tariff will not be enforced. See, Muoneke v. Compagnie Nationale Air France, (5thCir.Tex. May 12, 2009).
Unfortunately, majority of disputes arising between air passenger and an airline are unlikely to be resolved in passenger’s favor to fullest extent allowed by the Montreal Convention unless civil action for money damages is filed against an airline in a local federal district court within the state of passenger’s domicile.
Importantly, civil action against airline filed in local state court will be swiftly removed by an airline to a federal district court because the Montreal Convention preempts state law claims against airlines with exception of breach of contract claim. American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, 115 S.Ct. 817, 513U.S. 219, 130 L.Ed.2d 715, 63 USLW 4066 (U.S.Ill.,1995)(holding that Airline Deregulation Act did not preempt a civil action against airline based on state’s contract law theory).
Thus, civil action against airline resulting from delay or cancellation of international airfare flight under auspices of Article 19 of the Montreal Convention shall be only filed in the federal district court having jurisdiction upon passenger’s state of domicile or a place where a contract of purchasing of airfare was formed. Cf, Narkiewicz-Laine v. Scandinavian Airlines Systems, 587 F.Supp.2d 888 (N.D.Ill., 2008).
Although “purely emotional damages” such as damages for frustration, anguish, physical or mental upset independent of any physical injury may not be recovered under the Montreal Convention, see, e.g. Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd, 499 U.S. 530 (1991), nevertheless a courts have allowed recovery for physical and financial injuries, and even inconvenience. Daniel v. Virgin Atl. Airways Ltd, 59 F. Supp. 2d 986, 992 (N.D. Cal. 1998) (denying recovery for emotional injuries, but permitting claims for physical injuries and economic damages, including inconvenience); Ikekpeazu v. Air France, No. 3:04cv00711 (RNC), 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24580 4 (D. Conn. Dec. 6, 2004) (recognizing financial injury as a cognizable claim, but not emotional injury). Also, passenger may recover damages for economic loss under the Montreal Convention. See, e.g.,Ikekpeazu, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24580 at *4; Lee v. American Airlines, Inc., No. 3:01-CV-1179-P, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12029 at *13 (N.D. Tex. July 2, 2002), aff'd, 355 F.3d 386, 387 (5th Cir. Tex. 2004). Passenger can also recover loss of work damages resulting at financial injury as economic damages. See, Ikekpeazu, 2004U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24580 at *4.
To evaluate potential claim against an airline resulting from delay or cancellation of international airfare it is advisable to consult with an attorney, who is specializing in enforcement of air passenger’s rights afforded to them by the Montreal Convention. Such “delay and cancellation” claims are handled by lawyers on contingency fees basis. Successful passenger can recover money damages up to 4694 SDR or approximately $6500 Court’s costs are also recoverable but attorney’s fees generally are not recoverable with some very narrow exception. See, e.g. In re September 11 Litigation, 500 F.Supp.2d 356 (S.D.N.Y., 2007). Good luck and best regards.

Additional Resources
* Multilateral Convention for International Carriage by Air, Montreal May 28, 1999., S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45, reprinted in1999 WL 33292734 (2000).

* The Montreal Convention is available in the UNITED STATES CODE SERVICE (U.S.C.S.) volume titled International Agreements at 635 (2007). It is also available at S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45, 1999 WL 33292734 at 29-45.

* Press Statement, United States Department of State, Ratification of the 1999 Montreal Convention (Sept. 5, 2003), available at 23851pf.htm; Press Release, United States Department of Transportation, United States Ratifies 1999 Montreal Convention, Putting Treaty Into Effect (Sept. 5, 2003), available at affairs/dot10303.htm.


Languages spoken: Russian

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  1. Aviation: 50%
    12 years, 117 cases
  2. Criminal Defense: 20%
    13 years, 589 cases
  3. Litigation: 20%
    13 years, 39 cases
  4. Class Action: 10%
    6 years, 9 cases



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Gorokhovsky Law Office, LLC

6045 N. Greenbay Ave
Glendale, WI, 53092


WIGood Standing200203/24/2015

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This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority.

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    issued in WI, 2013


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Award nameGrantorDate granted
NoneMy best award is my every day-to-day satisfaction with my work I do on behalf of my clients.N/A
Work experience
TitleCompany nameDuration
N/AGorokhovsky Law Office LLC2002 - Present
Association namePosition nameDuration
International Forum of Trade and Tourism Attorneys (IFTTA)Member2015 - Present
State Bar of Wisconsin: Committee on Private PracticeN/A2003 - 2005
Legal cases
Case nameOutcome
Volodarskiy et al v. Delta Airlines, Inc. 1:11-cv-00782 (7th Cir.)7th Cir. Court of Appeals upheld SJM granted to Delta Air Lines Inc by the trial court
State of Wisconsin vs. Eric Taiwan Husband; Milwaukee County Case Number 2005CF002405Case was dismissed on defendant's motion
State vs Richard Vevers, Milwaukee County Case Number 2003CF0011335 counts were dismissed. Client paid fine.
See all legal cases 
Publication nameTitleDate
Russian Chicago"Advocating Claims of Airline Passengers under Art. 19 of Montreal Convention"2014
Russian Chicago"Liability of Airline for Damages Caused by Delay or Cancellation of International Airfare under Art. 19 of the Montreal Convention”2013
School nameMajorDegreeGraduated
John Marshall Law School, ChicagoN/ALL.M - Master of Laws2006
John Marshall Law School, ChicagoN/AJD - Juris Doctor2001
Speaking engagements
Conference nameTitleDate
4th Annual North American IFTTA ConferenceLitigating EU 261/2004 Claims in U.S. Courts2015