International Journal of Tourism, Travel and Hospitality Law 2023

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TOURISM, TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY LAW 1. THE CASE FACTS OF JR V AUSTRIAN AIRLINES After the arrival of a flight operated by Austrian Airlines from Thessaloniki to Vienna on 30 May 2019, the passengers exited the aircraft via a (non-covered) mobile staircase. The plaintiff’s husband went first with the hand luggage trolleys, the plaintiff followed, carrying her handbag in her right hand and having her two-year-old son in her left arm. After the plaintiff had observed her husband almost fall in the lower third of the stairs, she herself fell in the same place and broke her left forearm, with which she had hit the edge of the stairs. The court could not determine the reason for the fall: although the staircase was a little wet due to previous rain, it was neither slippery nor dirty. Neither the plaintiff nor her husband had used the handrail of the stairs. 2. THE CONCEPT OF ‘ACCIDENT’ IN WARSAW CONVENTION AND MONTREAL CONVENTION JURISPRUDENCE The US Supreme Court decision in Air France v Saks6 is widely regarded as the leading decision on the definition of an ‘accident’ for the purposes of the Warsaw Convention. According to that judgement, an ‘accident’ means an unusual or unexpected event that is external to the passenger and (at least as part of a chain of causes) causes the injury or death.7 In contrast, an injury resulting from the passenger’s own internal reaction to the usual, normal and expected operation of the aircraft is therefore not based on an ‘accident’. To qualify as an ‘accident’, an event must therefore • be unexpected or unusual • be external to the passenger; and • have led to the passenger’s injury or death, at least as part of a chain of causes. This definition has been widely followed by courts in other countries, such as the German Federal Court (BGH) and the Austrian Supreme Court (OGH), who have held that ‘accident” means 6 US Supreme Court 04.03.1985, Air France v Saks, 470 U.S. 392 [1985]. 7 ‘An injured passenger is only required to prove that some link in the chain of causes was an unusual or unexpected event external to the passenger’.