Time limitation period for seeking compensations from the airline authorities have been one of the most debated topics from its very inception. The common question faced by the passengers is the number of years until a passenger can claim compensation in case of any denied boarding of flights, delay or cancellation of flights in the Europe and rest of the parts of the world.
There are two major International body which puts light to the time limitational clause for passengers to demand compensation.
1. The Montreal Convention (2 years, rest of world except Europe)
2. Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004. (All nations under European Union)
Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty which has been adopted by 131 nations and have been established to determine the compensation to passengers for air disasters. As per article 35 of the Montreal Convention, the time limit to claiming compensation determined under the Montreal Convention is set for two years:
“Article 35 - Limitation of actions"
1. 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.
2. The method of calculating that period shall be determined by the law of the court seized of the case.1
Though the time limitation clause under Montreal Convention is set for 2 years but is not binding on the EU regulation 261/2004.
The provision for compensation for any delay or cancellation of flight in the EU is different from the rest of the Globe and is operated under the EU regulation of 261/2004. The Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, came into effect on 17 February 2005 by repealing the Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 which therefore sets a common rule for assistance and compensations to the passengers.2 The regulation covers any flight which either land at any EU airport or takeoff from any EU Airports. But to the utter fact, the EU regulation of 261/2004 was silent on the time period clause and left the passengers in a dilemma regarding the time limitation for seeking compensation from the authorities.
But the case of Joan Cuadrench Moré v Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV (Nov 2012) resolved the issue where the court held that, the time limitation clause under which passengers can claim compensation is actually a matter of nation’s domestic/national law and limitation act of the nation should be given importance.3 The court held that:
25. In the absence of provisions of EU law on the matter, it is for the domestic legal system of each Member State to lay down the detailed procedural rules governing actions for safeguarding rights which individuals derive from EU law, provided that those rules observe the principles of equivalence and effectiveness4
26. It follows that the time limits for bringing actions for compensation under articles 5 and 7 of Regulation No 261/2004 are determined by the national law of each Member State, provided that those rules observe the principles of equivalence and effectiveness.
Subsequently in May 2014, the England and Wales Court of Appeal in the matter of Dawson v. Thomson Airways Limited with reference to More vs KLM5 , also held that the European Union regulation is not in binding with the Montreal Convention and hence English law of limitation prevails in this issue.6
|Austria: 3 years||Lithuania: 10 years|
|Bulgaria: 5 years||Luxembourg: 10 years|
|Croatia: 2 years||Malta: 2 years|
|Cyprus: 6 years||Norway: 3 years|
|Czech Republic: 10 years (3 years to file a case before the National Enforcement Body (NEB))||Poland: no time limit|
|Denmark: 3 years||Portugal: 3 years|
|Estonia: 3 years||Romania: 6 months for a complaint to the NEB, 3 years for a court action|
|Finland: 3 years||Scotland: 5 years|
|France: 5 years||Slovakia: 2 years|
|Germany: 3 years||Slovenia: 2 years|
|Greece: 5 years||Spain: 5 years|
|Hungary: 5 years||Switzerland: 2 years for a complaint to the NEB|
|Iceland: 2 years||Sweden: 10 years|
|Ireland: 6 years||The Netherlands: 2 years|
|Italy: 2 years||United Kingdom (except Scotland): 6 years|
|Latvia: 3 years|
1 IATA, “The Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99)”, online: www.iata.org/policy/smarter-regulation/pages/mc99.aspx.
2 Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (Text with EEA relevance) - Commission Statement, 17 February 2004, OJ L [Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 295/91 (Text with EEA relevance) - Commission Statement].
3 “EUR-Lex - 62011CJ0139 - EN - EUR-Lex”, online: eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A62011CJ0139.
6 EWCA (Civ), 06/19/2014, Dawson v Thomson Airways Ltd  EWCA Civ 845 (available on www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2014/845.html.