The French Civil Aviation Authority's Registration Office recently moved from Paris to Athis-Mons. As a result, aircraft mortgage beneficiaries must elect domicile in the jurisdiction of the Evry Tribunal Judiciaire. This will not prove too difficult for French banks, which may elect domicile at a branch in the Court of Evry's territorial jurisdiction; however, foreign lenders and non-banking mortgagees will have to find someone (eg, a notary) who will accept such election of domicile on their behalf.
The Court of Cassation recently rendered a decision concerning an AirAsia Airbus A320 which crashed in the Java Sea in December 2014, killing all crew and passengers on board. Notably, this decision reaffirms that, under French law, a manufacturer's liability cannot be limited or excluded on the grounds that another party or some other cause contributed to the damage if the product was defective and caused the damage.
French drone legislation was recently updated to require telepilots who fly drones for leisure purposes to undergo specific training. In addition, Law 2016-1428 on enhancing drone operational safety recently entered into force. Among other things, the law requires telepilots who fly drones weighing more than 800g to undergo mandatory training and requires certain civil drones to be registered.
In 2016 French contract law was restructured to render it more predictable and commercially attractive. The reform extended to the currency limitation rule, which was considered both restrictive and unclear. A recently passed implementing law is expected to provide greater flexibility for aviation transactions, as the currency limitations no longer apply to transactions between professionals where payment in a foreign currency is common practice in the relevant industry.
While developing its French network, Ryanair received support from various regional airports, including the Mixed Syndicate of Charente Airports (SMAC). The European Commission ultimately found this financial support to be illegal and, as a result, Ryanair had to repay the illicit subsidy to the SMAC. When Ryanair failed to make the payment in full, the SMAC requested the Bordeaux court to order the arrest of a Ryanair aircraft on its arrival at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport.
Bird strikes are not uncommon in civil aviation: every year there are approximately 5,000 to 6,000 incidents costing $1.2 billion worldwide. But this begs the question of who should be held responsible for bird strikes where an airport subcontracts the prevention of bird risk to a third party. The Supreme Court for Administrative Law recently had to decide which party was responsible for this collision, as previous case law on the matter was unclear.
The Court of Cassation recently reaffirmed that air carriers have no duty to inform passengers about required travel and immigration documents. Therefore, carriers bear no liability for denying boarding to passengers who do not comply with the applicable laws.
The Pinel Law has modified the rules relating to the establishment of businesses on state property. Although the reform is intended to make it easier for businesses to be established within French airports, the extent to which it will do so remains to be seen, as only those businesses with their own client base can benefit from the reforms.
Although a strict reading of EU Regulation 261/2004 would suggest that passengers whose flights have merely been delayed are not entitled to compensation, the European Court of Justice has held to the contrary. Despite these rulings, some French courts have still applied a strict interpretation of the regulation and its narrow legal regime in respect of delayed flights. However, the Court of Cassation has now finally aligned its case law.
The Court of Cassation has reiterated the basis on which a carrier may be liable where a passenger falls during disembarking operations, in accordance with Article 17 of the convention, which applies to domestic transport within EU member states. The decision should reassure both domestic and international carriers as to the manner in which French courts will apply Article 17.
The civil drone market is expanding rapidly. However, the increasing use of civil drones poses obvious problems. For example, there have been reports of unauthorised drones flying over nuclear power stations, raising major security concerns. It is in this context that the French government has decided to review the legislation applicable to civil drones.
Since the European Court of Justice Sturgeon decision and its extension of the lump-sum compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004 to all flight delays exceeding three hours, there has been a considerable increase in litigation in France between passengers and air carriers. However, with the introduction of class actions into French law, this may now change.
For the purposes of cargo claims, the courts have invariably held that the criterion of the "place of business through which the contract has been made" is satisfied where an establishment of the carrier was involved in the issuing of the air waybill. A recent decision by the Paris Court of Appeal has upheld and clarified this notion.
The French courts have repeatedly held that Article 33 of the Montreal Convention on jurisdiction overrides all other jurisdiction provisions, particularly including domestic rules on jurisdiction. In a recent decision the Rennes Court of Appeal stressed that the exclusive rules of jurisdiction set out in Article 33 also apply to any third-party action against the carrier, including by a tour operator.
The Montreal Convention provides that "in the case of damage, the person entitled to delivery must complain to the carrier forthwith". The French courts have regularly repeated who must address the complaint, and to whom such complaint must be sent in accordance with Article 31.2 of the convention. A recent decision of the Versailles Court of Appeal went a step further and also specified the form and content of such complaint.
EU Regulation 2111/2005 established a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban within the European Union and imposed an obligation to inform passengers of the identity of the operating air carrier. The French Parliament recently passed a new law taking the obligation to inform passengers one step further by requiring that passengers be informed of this before conclusion of the contract of carriage.
The Versailles Court of Appeal has rendered its much-anticipated judgment in the criminal action arising from the 2000 Concorde crash in Paris. While accepting the sequence of events propounded by the prosecutor, the court overturned the judgment at first instance in relation to the criminal part of the action. Although it acquitted all of the accused of criminal charges, it found a number of them to be civilly liable for damages.
The Court of Cassation recently issued its first decision on the constitutionality of a provision of French aviation law since the 2010 reform allowing submission of such issues to the Constitutional Council. The claimants had argued that it was unconstitutional for the Transport Code to apply different liability regimes depending on whether carriage by air is undertaken for free or for a fee.
Parliament has passed a new law that aims to provide stronger protection for passengers when airline or ground staff decide to go on strike. The law seeks to reconcile two constitutional principles applicable to all companies involved in air travel: the right to strike and the prohibition against interfering with passengers' freedom to travel.
The Court of Cassation has reiterated that the jurisdiction chosen by the plaintiff under Article 33 of the Montreal Convention is the sole jurisdiction before which a claim may be pursued, and that this rule overrides all other domestic rules which could otherwise apply. This case illustrates the problems which arise when identical provisions of the same convention are not applied consistently across jurisdictions.