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Contract of Carriage: Everything You Need To Know

Jonathan Chum
Jonathan Chum

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You are going to run into a lot of complicated terms when you get on an airplane. Even though you do not necessarily need to know all of them in order to fly, you do need to know some of them because they are a reflection of your right. One term that you may run into on a regular basis is called a contract of carriage. What does this mean? In this post, we are going to cover: 

  • What a contract of carriage is 
  • What this means with respect to flying on an airplane
  • What you should do if you run into problems on your plane 

We have had the privilege of flying all over the world. Even though most of our flights take place without any problems, there are other situations where we have experienced issues. Learn more about what a contract of carriage is below.

What Is a Contract of Carriage? 

In the most basic terms, a contract of carriage is a contract between a carrier and someone who signs the document. A contract of carriage is not limited to simply passenger airlines. For example, if a company is shipping its goods overseas, it will have a contract of carriage between itself and whoever is responsible for carrying its goods into the final destination. You will have a contract of carriage with an airline as well if you decide to fly with them.

As an example, the airline is the carrier, and you are the “goods.” You are flying with that airline to your final destination. Therefore, you need to have a contract would that airline before you get on a plane.

Depending on the industry, a contract of carriage can take many shapes and forms. Usually, this contract is used to define the rights, duties, and liabilities of all parties involved. This includes not only the carrier but yourself as well. For example, the airline may state in the contract that they are responsible for your safety up to a certain point. They are responsible for making sure you get to your location safely. On the other hand, you have your own duties as well. For example, you probably know that you are not supposed to damage any smoke detectors that are located in the lavatory. Even though this may not be explicitly stated in the contract of carriage, this is an example of a duty you might have if you decide to get on the plane. 

What Does This Mean when You Fly?

You do not need to memorize your contract of carriage in order to get on a plane; however, it does have a lot of important implications for you when you get on your next flight. For example, the contract of carriage is probably going to include limits regarding the liability of the airline as they relate to delayed flights, damaged luggage, and lost fragile items. The contract of carriage is probably also going to include time limits regarding when you can file a claim against the airline. If you get hurt on an airline, you probably have a certain window of opportunity within which you can file a lawsuit.

The contract of carriage will also probably state that you are not allowed to bring weapons on the plane. Even if you have a concealed carry permit, you are not allowed to bring these on the plane unless you are a member of law enforcement. But, there are probably also going to be limits on the liability of the airline when it comes to schedule changes, substituting air crews, and rerouting flights in emergency situations. 

These are just a few of the many items that could be included in a contract of carriage. Even though you do not need to know this to board your plane, you do need to know this if something goes wrong on your flight. That way, you know what you should do next.

What Should You Do if You Experience Issues? 

If you experience problems on a plane, the first thing you need to do is to go to a local customer service agent. Then, explain to that person what happened on your flight. They may know how to help you. For example, they may point you in the right direction, provide you with a free upgrade, or otherwise compensate you for your troubles in some way.

When you go to the customer service agent, you may want to know the basics of your contract of carriage. That way, you know what your rights are, and you know what the duties of the airline are supposed to be. In the event you are not happy with the response, you may be able to point this out to the customer service agent.

If you experienced significant issues on the plane, such as a medical emergency or an injury of some sort, you could incur significant financial bills. In this case, you definitely need to know your contract of carriage because you may have a set window within which you can bring a claim against the airline. 

There is probably going to be a lot of complicated jargon in your contract of carriage. In particularly extreme situations, you may need to reach out to a trained Legal Professional who can help you. That way, you know your rights are being protected. 

Know Before You Fly: Your Contract of Carriage

Ultimately, there is a lot of information that has to go into that contract of carriage. Even though you may not understand exactly what is in your contract, it is important for you to understand your rights. Furthermore, you also need to understand what to do if something happens to you on a plane. If you know who to reach out to, where to go, and how to protect your rights, you can stand up for yourself moving forward. Make sure you know your rights before you get on a plane. They are probably specified in a contract of carriage.


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