Recent reports suggest that the need to remedy defects in a faulty fire prevention system and other construction faults will further delay the opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. For example, an internal report by TÜV Rheinland detailed 11,519 deficiencies in the airport's emergency lighting and safety power supply cables, which were replaced after the failed opening in 2012.
The Higher Regional Court of Dusseldorf recently confirmed the underlying principle of Article 18(2)(d) of the Montreal Convention – namely, that air carriers cannot be held liable for damages which are entirely outside their sphere of risk and influence. However, this decision is also a useful reminder that an exclusion of liability clause is not a free pass for carriers.
The controversial prohibition on passing on commission forbids brokers and insurers from granting or promising special remuneration to policyholders, insured persons or beneficiaries under an insurance contract. According to the legislature, the prohibition was upheld during the implementation of the EU Insurance Distribution Directive into national law over the past three years. However, whether reinsurance remains excluded from the prohibition is unclear.
A 2018 Federal Court of Justice decision clarified that the secondary obligations arising from a contract of carriage between a passenger and an air carrier extend to the verification of the validity of the documents required for entry. However, checking that passengers have the correct documentation also remains an obligation for air carriers. Air carriers must therefore check the validity of passengers' documents before admitting them to a flight in order to rule out their own contributory negligence.
How should the weight of a shipment containing damaged goods but usable pallets be calculated, considering that this would form the basis for liability? According to a recent Federal Court of Justice decision, if the pallets are still usable, only the net weight of the goods counts. The court held that it is necessary to look closely at what has been damaged, as the fate of some items is not necessarily the fate of others.
Daimler, MAN, Volvo/Renault, DAF, Iveco and Scania are facing billion-dollar damages claims from carriers for illegal price fixing. To date, more than 7,000 transport companies from 26 countries have filed over 300 claims in excess of €1 billion in the German courts. However, the spillover effects on the transport sector remain unclear. A recent Dortmund Regional Court decision provides much-needed clarity in this regard.
In May 2018 the Aviation Working Group announced plans for a global aircraft trading system (GATS) to modernise the selling, buying and financing of leased aircraft and engines by making such transactions simpler and faster. The GATS will be fully electronic and use e-signatures, e-delivery of documents and a secure e-ledger to record transactions. As such, it is expected to reduce the time and costs required to change German aircraft registrations through the national aviation authority.
If a third-country aircraft owner terminates the lease of a German airline but wants to keep the aircraft registered in Germany, it must enter into a new lease or similar agreement with an entity from an EU member state for at least six months. This article discusses why aircraft lessors and owners should carefully consider the requirements for keeping an aircraft in the German aircraft registry, particularly if its lease has been terminated.
A hard Brexit would increase liability risk for EU carriers and freight forwarders, and disputing parties would need to overcome a number of factual and legal hurdles. Before undertaking cross-border transports, carriers are well advised to make clear agreements with senders in order to clarify that customs clearance delays are expected for an unforeseeable duration and request instructions from senders in accordance with the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled that the complete failure of an airport computer system may be considered an extraordinary circumstance. The court affirmed that airport system failures caused by technical defects which affect or suspend the functioning of technical equipment over a prolonged period are an external event affecting air carrier flight operations. Further, the monitoring, maintenance and repair of an airport's technical facilities lie outside the responsibility and competence of air carriers.
The Federal Court of Justice recently held that a strike is considered an extraordinary circumstance pursuant to the EU Flight Delay Compensation Regulation only if its consequences cannot be averted by reasonable measures and make flight cancellation legally and actually necessary. This decision emphasises that determining whether airlines can avoid liability due to extraordinary circumstances must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The German Freight Forwarders' Standard Terms and Conditions (ADSp) are a joint body of recommendations for shipping industry associations and freight forwarders. However, given that there are (at least) three versions – namely, ADSp 2003, ADSp 2016 and ADSp 2017 – many companies struggle to clearly identify the ADSp on which they should base their services.
A recent Bremen Regional Court decision serves as a stark reminder to carriers that all contractual obligations, particularly those relating to security instructions, must be fulfilled and that any carrier found to have breached these obligations could face unrestricted liability in the event of damages. Carriers should carefully assess the feasibility of implementing any listed safety instructions before accepting transport contracts.
The Koblenz Higher Regional Court recently confirmed that tour operators cannot be held liable by cruise passengers for gym injuries sustained during large swells. The decision re-emphasises the fact that ships shift constantly at sea and that all passengers should therefore take appropriate care while on board – particularly during large swells – as failure to do so may deny them the ability to claim damages if an accident occurs.
The Verden Regional Court recently sentenced a forwarder to pay full compensation plus interest calculated at nine percentage points above the basic lending rate under the Civil Code. Upholding the forwarder's appeal, the Celle Higher Regional Court held that the interest rate should be reduced to five percentage points above the basic lending rate, which is more in line with interest claims under the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road.
The Hamburg Local Court recently dismissed a passenger's claim for damages based on denied boarding after the delay of a previous flight which had been operated by a code-share partner. The court was of the opinion that a code-share partner is not liable for every further disruption along the course of transportation. Rather, the right to claim damages requires an adequate causal link between the delay and the further disruption.
Following Bavaria's state elections in October 2018, the legally binding plans to build a third runway at Munich Airport incurred significant delays. The state authorities recently agreed that the project will be suspended for five years, despite the fact that demand for aviation services in Munich – and internationally – continues to rise. The decision is a further example of how Germany's aviation industry will face additional, severe obstacles and challenges over the coming years.
The European Parliament and Council recently revised and replaced the basic regulation on common rules in the field of civil aviation. The new basic regulation promises a number of significant changes to the German aviation landscape over the next five years. Among other revisions, the Federal Aviation Office could lose some of its control over certain tasks relating to air operator certification, oversight and enforcement.
While settling claims out of court to avoid losing customers is becoming standard practice in the shipping and transport industry, such payments should not be made prematurely – particularly if the carrier's responsibility for the damage is unclear. In most cases, the opposing party interprets such goodwill payments as an acknowledgement of debt at a later stage in the proceedings. Therefore, carriers are advised to draw up a brief compensation declaration to avoid having to compensate twice.
The State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia recently decided to launch an airline passenger rights app. The new app is intended to promote consumer protection and help passengers to claim compensation easily via their mobile phones. It will be developed by the consumer advice centre and is expected to inform passengers of their rights, perform claim checks, offer suggestions on how and where to assert claims and actively support the process of claiming compensation.