Air passengers rise as Montreal Convention implemented

With the aim of meeting global aviation standards, Thailand began implementing the Montreal Convention on air passenger rights and claims last week, while Airports of Thailand announced that the number of passengers using Thailand’s six main airports rose 8 percent during the first eight months of 2017, a sign of the Kingdom’s vitality as a transport hub.

Airports of Thailand (AoT), the private firm that manages the Kingdom’s six largest airports, said that 88.6 million passengers had passed through Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai international airports from January through August, accounting for an 8 percent year-on-year increase. International passengers increased by 7.4 percent and domestic passengers by 8.7 percent.

Although the robust rise in passenger numbers reflects Thailand’s strength in tourism, business and as a regional transport center, the relentless growth is also presenting challenges. All six airports are facing capacity issues. Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, the Kingdom’s main international gateway, handled 55.5 million passengers in fiscal 2016, which was 10.5 million passengers above the airport’s 45 million-passenger capacity.  Suvarnabhumi is undergoing renovation and expansion in order to meet its traffic demands, as are most of the other airports.

In total, the six AoT-run airports conveyed 120 million passengers in fiscal 2016, which was well above their combined capacity of 96.5 million per year.

Implementing the Montreal Convention of 1999 is one of several components of Thailand’s reform of its aviation sector. The reforms address stresses on the Kingdom’s aviation systems by adequately fund the country’s aviation regulatory bodies. The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has increased resources for regulators and demanded they take all measures necessary to ensure global standards are met.

The Montreal Convention of 1999 is a multilateral treaty adopted by more than120 countries that seeks to create uniformity in rules relating to international carrying of passengers, baggage and cargo. The convention also sets parameters in cases of liability. Transport to and from Thailand will now be subject to the terms of the convention, which aims to provide transparency, certainty and clarity to liability in carriage by air.

Implementing the convention will have repercussions for the Thai legal system. The most significant changes are the introduction of a minimum liability limit for passenger death and injury claims of $159,825. Claims on baggage loss will be limited to $1,597 per passenger. In Thailand, however, most passengers with claims reach settlements with airlines before court cases are filed or heard, legal analysts said.