Air Carriers' Liability and Insurance

Australia's carriers' liability and insurance arrangements are outlined in the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959 (the CACL Act).

The Act gives the force of law to a number of passenger liability frameworks, including those arising under the ‘Warsaw System’, the Montreal Convention, and a separate system of liability for domestic travel.

The liability framework for domestic passenger travel is created under Part IV of the Act, and is complemented by state government legislation to create a national uniform scheme.

Arrangements for compulsory passenger insurance are outlined in Part IVA of the Act.

Liability arrangements for third party (surface) victims are outlined in the Damage by Aircraft Act 1999 (the DBA Act).

Montreal Convention

The 1999 Montreal Convention came into effect for Australia on 24 January 2009.

The Montreal Convention is an international agreement which updates laws relating to carriers' liability. It is designed to replace the complicated and outdated ‘Warsaw System’ of carriers' liability.

The Montreal Convention was implemented in Australia by the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (1999 Montreal Convention and Other Measures) Act 2008. This legislation followed extensive consultation with interested industries.

Warsaw Convention

The Warsaw Convention was signed in 1929 and deals with the rules of liability governing international carriage of persons, baggage and cargo by aircraft. The Convention has been amended on a piecemeal basis over succeeding years by a number of protocols and conventions.

The Warsaw Conventions and the various amending instruments to which Australia is a party are given the force of law in Australia by the Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Act 1959.

For further information:

Civil Aviation (Carriers' Liability) Review

The Department is in the process of updating key aspects of Australia’s aviation insurance and liability framework under the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959 (CACL Act). This work commenced through the discussion paper process in April 2018 PDF: 665 KB ReadSpeaker to gather stakeholder views and feedback. The main focus of the discussion paper was on:

  • updating liability thresholds under the CACL Act.
  • reviewing the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Regulations 1991.
  • reviewing current insurance exclusions, particularly War Risk.

Following consideration of the responses to the discussion paper and with the current iteration of regulations due to sunset in October 2019, it was proposed the regulations be remade largely in the same form, with updates to liability limits and reflecting modern drafting language and structure. An exposure draft of updated regulations was released in July 2019 PDF: 432 KB ReadSpeaker seeking feedback on the technical aspects of the proposed regulations and proposed increases in liability limits.

The proposed regulations included a change to liability limits relating to:

  • passengers on a domestic carrier under Part IV of the Act, by reason of injury or death resulting from an accident, to $925,000;
  • passengers on a carrier other than domestic carrier under Part IV of the Act, by reason of injury or death resulting from an accident, to 480,000 SDRs;
  • baggage of passengers under Part IV of the Act that is registered in respect of its destruction, loss or injury, to $3,000; and
  • baggage that is not registered baggage of passengers under Part IV of the Act in respect of its destruction, loss or injury, to $300.

Feedback on the proposed regulations was largely supportive, with some minor technical changes having been proposed. The Department is now progressing the proposed regulations through relevant approval process, with the new regulations expected to be effective from 1 October 2019.

Updates to the CACL Act remain under consideration and further work will be progressed on completion of the remaking of the regulations.

The contact details for further information are as follows:

Email: CACL@infrastructure.gov.au
Telephone: 02 6274 7064

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Last Updated: 23 August, 2019