Sidhu and Others v British Airways Plc; Abnett (Known as Sykes) v Same: HL 13 Dec 1996

The claimants had been air passengers who were unlawfully detained in Kuwait, when their plane was captured whilst on the ground on the invasion of Kuwait. They sought damages for that detention.
Held: There are no exceptions to the Warsaw Convention rules. The courts should take a purposive construction of the Act: ‘the answer to the question raised in the present case is to be found in the objects and structure of the Convention. The language used and the subject matter with which it deals demonstrate that what was sought to be achieved was a uniform international code, which could be applied by the courts of all the High Contracting Parties without reference to the rules of their own domestic law.’ If a remedy for the injury is not available under the Convention, it is not available at all.
Lord Hope reached the conclusion that the Convention was intended to be comprehensive and exclusive, allowing for the existence of no liabilities other than those for which it provided. He said: ‘The phrase ‘the cases covered by article 17’ extends therefore to all claims made by the passenger against the carrier arising out of international carriage by air, other than claims for damage to his registered baggage which must be dealt with under article 18 and claims for delay which must be dealt with under article 19. The words ‘however founded’ which appear in article 24(1) and are applied to passenger’s claims by article 24(2) support this approach. The intention seems to be to provide a secure regime, within which the restriction on the carrier’s freedom of contract is to operate. Benefits are given to the passenger in return, but only in clearly defined circumstances to which the limits of liability set out by the Convention are to apply. To permit exceptions, whereby a passenger could sue outwith the Convention for losses sustained in the course of international carriage by air, would distort the whole system, even in cases for which the Convention did not create any liability on the part of the carrier. Thus the purpose is to ensure that, in all questions relating to the carrier’s liability, it is the provisions of the Convention which apply and that the passenger does not have access to any other remedies, whether under the common law or otherwise, which may be available within the particular country where he chooses to raise his action. The carrier does not need to make provision for the risk of being subjected to such remedies, because the whole matter is regulated by the Convention.’ and
‘Here again it seems that a balance has been struck in the interests of uniformity of treatment and of certainty. I see no sign in the generality with which these provisions have been expressed of a recognition that there may be some actions of damages arising from the international carriage of passengers by air which are not subject to these rules. It would be largely destructive of the system which this chapter seems to have been designed to lay down if a passenger were to be able, for example, to maintain a claim of damages for non-bodily injury, for loss of or damage to the personal possessions which he had with him inside the aircraft or for economic loss, outside the conditions and limits set by the Convention while maintaining a claim under the Convention for the bodily injury. . ‘
Otherwise Abnett v British Airways
Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle, Lord Mustill, Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead
Gazette 15-Jan-1997, Times 13-Dec-1996, [1996] UKHL 5, [1997] AC 431, [1997] All ER 193, [1997] 2 WLR 26,
House of Lords, Bailii
Warsaw Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules regarding International Air Transport 1929, Carriage by Air Act 1961
Appeal fromAbnett v British Airways Plc (Scotland) IHCS 28-Apr-1995
A passenger wrongfully detained in Kuwait, whilst travelling at the time when Iraq invaded Kuwait, only has right to claim damages under Warsaw Convention. . .
CitedGrein v Imperial Airways Ltd CA 1937
A passenger met his death whilst travelling on a return air ticket between London and Antwerp. Belgium was not a state contracting under the Convention.
Held: Belgium was engaged on ‘international carriage’ within the meaning of the . .
CitedFothergill v Monarch Airlines Ltd HL 10-Jul-1980
The plaintiff, on arriving at the airport found that his luggage had been lost. The defendant denied liability saying he had not notified his claim within the requisite period.
Held: Elementary justice requires that the rules by which the . .
CitedGatewhite v Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA 1990
In a contract for the carriage of goods by air, the court considered whether the owner of goods who had not been named as the consignor or consignee on the air waybill was entitled to sue the carrier for damages to the goods while in transit.
CitedT v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 22-May-1996
The applicant for asylum had been involved in an airport bomb attack killing 10 people. Asylum had been refused on the basis that this was a non-political crime. Though the organisation had political objectives, those were only indirectly associated . .

Cited by:
CitedDeep Vein Thrombosis and Air Travel Group Litigation HL 8-Dec-2005
The appellants had suffered deep vein thrombosis whilst travelling on long haul air flights. The defendants said that their liability was limited because the injuries were not accidents.
Held: The claimants’ appeal failed. The definition of . .
CitedBarclay v British Airways Plc CA 18-Dec-2008
The claimant sought damages for personal injury. The airline said that the injury was not the result of an accident within article 17.1. She was walking down the aisle and slipped.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. The meaning of ‘accident’ . .
CitedLaroche v Spirit of Adventure (UK) Ltd CA 21-Jan-2009
Hot Air balloon was an aircraft: damages limited
The claimant was injured flying in the defendant’s hot air balloon. The defendant said that the journey was covered by the 1967 Regulations and the damages limited accordingly. The claimant appealed against a decision that the balloon was an . .
CitedDawson v Thomson Airways Ltd CA 19-Jun-2014
The claimant’s flight had been delayed for six hours. The airline said that the claim having been made outside the two year period applicable under the Montreal convention, no compensation was payable.
Held: The claimant’s appeal failed. ‘We . .
CitedStott v Thomas Cook Tour Operators Ltd SC 5-Mar-2014
The Court was asked whether a person may recover damages for discomfort and injury to feelings caused by a breach of the 2007 Regulations, which implement EC Regulation No. 1107/2006. The disabled passenger claimant alleged failure by the defendant . .
CitedWarner v Scapa Flow Charters (Scotland) SC 17-Oct-2018
This appeal raises a question about the interpretation of article 16 of the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974 (‘the Athens Convention’) and its application to the Scots law of limitation of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 27 September 2021; Ref: scu.89254