Thu, Jul 31, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Aviation laws fall short of standard

By Jao Juei-Cheng 饒瑞正

Taiwan’s regulations concerning air carriers’ liability for damages, as laid down in the Civil Aviation Act (民用航空法), are seriously out of line with the two major international aviation conventions — the 1929 Warsaw Convention, with its associated protocols and amendments, and the 1999 Montreal Convention. This disharmony is a serious impediment to improving the nation’s air-transport safety.

The act does not outline standards for air passenger carriers’ liability for damages or destruction or loss of passengers’ carry-on and consigned baggage, nor does it include regulations about cargo carriers’ liability. Instead, one must turn to the regulations of the Civil Code concerning passenger and freight transport.

The Regulations of Compensation For Damage Caused to Air Passengers and Freight (航空客貨損害賠償辦法), which were drawn up in accordance with the Civil Aviation Act, are based on the principle of full compensation for actual damages in relation to the extent of carriers’ liability for injury and death. The regulations set the minimum compensation for the death of each passenger at NT$3 million (US$99,967) and the minimum compensation for severe injury at NT$1.5 million. However, if damage does not cause death or severe injury, limited compensation applies and the maximum compensation payable is set at NT$1.5 million.

This sum is much lower than the maximum of 100,000 special drawing rights (about US$153,500) that is specified in the regulations of the two global conventions.

More importantly, under the two conventions, when a carrier’s negligence leads to the death or injury of one or more passengers, the carrier cannot claim for limited liability, while under the Civil Aviation Act, a carrier only loses the right to claim limited liability if its culpability reaches the level of gross negligence.

Passenger transport is different from cargo transport in that it involves human lives. The legal system must therefore set a high standard for passenger transport, and this is a common standpoint of all international aviation conventions.

Hopefully, the Ministry of Transport will consider bringing Taiwan’s aviation laws in line with international norms. As well as bringing about improvements in aviation safety

This would also be in line with key economic development policies.

Jao Juei-cheng is an associate professor at National Taiwan Ocean University’s Institute of the Law of the Sea and is secretary-general of the Taiwan Maritime Law Association.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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