Complaints from passengers

Protection of consumers as users of air transport services – denied boarding of passengers and lost/damaged luggage

The contractual relations between the passenger-consumer who uses the air transportation service, as one contractual party, and the airline that provides this service, as the other contractual party, are applied as authoritative provisions:

  • Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015),
  • The Montreal Convention, which the Law ratified on Confirmation of the Convention on the Unification of Certain Rules for International Air Transport (“Official Gazette of RS – International Agreements”, No. 38/2009) and
  • Law on Consumer Protection (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 88/2021).

General rules of the Law on Obligation Relations (“Official Gazette of the SFRY”, no. 29/78, 39/85, 45/89 – decision of the USJ and 57/89, “Official Gazette of the SFRY”, no. 31/93, “Official Gazette of SCG”, No. 1/2003 – Constitutional Charter and “Official Gazette of the RS”, No. 18/2020) accordingly apply to all issues that are not regulated by the regulations mentioned above.

The provisions of the national legislation are applied to contracts concluded between the consumer and a domestic air carrier that has its business seat in the Republic of Serbia, as well as to contracts that consumers conclude in Serbia with a foreign air carrier that has a registered representative office or branch office in the Republic of Serbia.

In the case of concluding a contract between a consumer and a foreign air carrier, the provisions of private international law are applicable. According to the Law on the Resolution of Conflicts of Laws with the Regulations of Other Countries (“Official Gazette of the SFRY”, No. 43/82 and 72/82 – corrected, “Official Gazette of the FRY”, No. 46/96 and “Official Gazette of the RS”, No. 46/2006 – other law), the applicable law for the contract is the one chosen by the contracting parties, unless otherwise determined by this law or an international agreement.

If the applicable law is not selected and if the particular circumstances of the case do not point to another law, the applicable law for the contract of carriage shall be the law of the place where the carrier’s place of residence was located at the time of acceptance of the offer, i.e. the business seat of the carrier.

Legal rights of passengers (consumers) in cases of denied boarding and lost/damaged luggage

Following confirmed international agreements and under the conditions established by the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015), passengers are guaranteed a minimum of rights in the event of:

  • that boarding is denied against the will of the passenger
  • that the flight was cancelled
  • flight delays.

Denial of boarding against the will of the passenger

In the case of denial of boarding against the passenger’s will, Article 9, paragraph 4 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015) stipulates that passengers who deny boarding against their will, the actual air carrier must immediately compensate for the damage following Article 12 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015 ) (e.g. for flights up to 1,500 km, compensation is 250 euros in dinar equivalent) and to provide them with assistance from Article 13 (right to reimbursement of costs or rerouting) and 14 (right to take care) of the Law on Obligations and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, no. 87/2011 and 66/2015).

Passengers must be offered a choice between:

  1. reimbursement of costs, within seven days, in the manner prescribed in Article 12, Paragraph 4 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015 ) in an amount corresponding to the total price of the ticket for which it was purchased, for the part or parts of the trip that were not completed and for the part or parts of the journey that were completed, if the flight no longer serves the purpose that the passenger planned initially, together with, when if it is relevant – by return flight to the first point of departure, as soon as possible
  2. rerouting the road, according to similar transport conditions, to the final destination as soon as possible
  3. rerouting the route, according to similar transport conditions, to the final destination at a later date as acceptable to the passenger, depending on the availability of accessible seats.

Article 14 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015) prescribes the obligation to offer passengers free of charge:

  • meals and refreshments suitable for the waiting time
  • hotel lodging:
    1) if one or more overnight stays are necessary,
    2) if it is necessary to stay longer than the traveller planned
  • transportation from the airport to the place of accommodation (hotel or similar), as well as
  • two free phone calls or two messages.

Loss or damage to luggage

Regarding lost or damaged luggage, which is a frequent occurrence in practice, it is essential to highlight Article 31 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015) which it is stipulated that all air carriers must, when selling transportation, to:

  • inform passengers of excerpts from the main provisions governing the responsibility of the air carrier concerning passengers and their luggage, including deadlines for filing claims for damages and the possibility of making a separate statement about luggage, as well as
  • make statements about the air carrier’s responsibility available to passengers at all points of sale, including telephone sales or sales via the Internet.

This kind of familiarization of the passengers with the mentioned information represents the fulfilment of the pre-contractual information obligation of the consumer.

Air carriers use the Statement on the liability of air carriers towards passengers and their luggage, the content of which is regulated by Article 32 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015) to fulfil request for the provision of information. The Statement, among other things, contains a notice that the air carrier is responsible for the destruction, loss or damage of luggage up to 1,131 special towing rights.

For checked (registered) luggage, the air carrier is responsible even if it is not at fault, except if the luggage has a defect.

For luggage not handed over (registered), the air carrier is only responsible if it is at fault.

Regarding the right to complain about luggage, the Extract contains the following information: “If the luggage is damaged, lost, destroyed or delayed, the passenger must submit a written complaint to the airline as soon as possible. In case of damage to the checked-in (registered) luggage, the passenger must submit the appeal within seven days, and in the case of luggage delay within 21 days, with the fact that in both cases, the deadline starts from the day the luggage was handed over to the passenger”.

The deadline for submitting a claim for compensation to the court is two years from the date the aircraft landed or should have landed.

Article 26 of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015) stipulates that the responsibility of the air carrier, in addition to the provisions of this law, also applies corresponding provisions of the Montreal Convention, as well as that these provisions are also applied to transport that is carried out within the airspace of the Republic of Serbia. The Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 87/2011 and 66/2015) stipulates that the amount of compensation for damage caused by the destruction, loss or damage of hand luggage and handed over (registered) baggage is determined following Article 21st and 22nd Montreal Convention.

The air carrier must, without delay, and no later than 15 days after establishing the identity of the natural person entitled to compensation, make an advance payment in proportion to the material damage suffered to satisfy those persons’ immediate material needs.

Complaints from passengers due to denied boarding, flight cancellations and flight delays

A passenger who believes that one of his rights has been violated based on the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of the RS”, no. 87/2011 and 66/2015) in case of denial of boarding, cancellation of flights and flight delays, submits a written complaint to the air carrier.

A person with a disability or a person with reduced mobility who believes that some of the rights prescribed by the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, no. 87/2011 and 66/2015) have been violated can file a complaint in writing to the air carrier, i.e. the body managing the airport, depending on the case, with which he submits appropriate evidence.

When making a reservation, the air carrier or tour operator informs the passenger about the procedures for submitting complaints due to denied boarding, flight cancellations and flight delays, and the appropriate contact addresses to which they can be submitted, including electronic delivery methods.

The deadline for filing a complaint is no later than 90 days from when the flight was made or should have been made.

Suppose the air carrier, i.e. the body managing the airport, within 60 days from the date of submission of the complete documentation necessary for the complaint, does not comply with it or respond to it. In that case, the complainant has the right to report a violation of the Law on Obligation and Fundamentals of Ownership-Legal Relations in Air Traffic (“Official Gazette of RS”, no. 87/2011 and 66/2015) due to denied boarding, flight cancellations and flight delays to Directorate of Civil Aviation of the Republic of Serbia.

Regardless of the right to claim, a passenger, a disabled person or a person with reduced mobility has the right to protect their rights by filing a lawsuit before the competent court.

Complaints from passengers due to damaged luggage

Complaints due to damaged baggage are regulated by the Montreal Convention. Article 31 of the Montreal Convention stipulates that the receipt without objection by the person entitled to deliver the delivered luggage or goods is prima facie evidence that it was delivered in good condition and per the transport document.

In the event of damage, the person entitled to delivery must file a claim with the air carrier immediately upon discovering the damage and no later than seven days from the day of receipt if it is checked luggage.

In case of delay, the appeal shall be submitted no later than twenty-one days after the day when the luggage was made available to him.

Complaints are submitted in writing and should be delivered or sent within the deadlines mentioned above.

If the complaint is not filed within the deadlines mentioned above, the claim against the carrier is not allowed, except in the case of fraud on his part. This convention does not regulate the deadline by which the air carrier should respond to the passenger’s complaint and resolve it.

Implementation of the Law on Consumer Protection

The Law on Consumer Protection (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 88/2021) is not a material regulation that regulates the provision of air transportation services, nor does it specifically regulate the rights and obligations of the contracting parties arising from the concluded air transportation contract. The Law on Consumer Protection (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 88/2021) generally protects the economic interests of consumers, enables faster and more efficient protection of their rights, and applies when consumers are passengers in air transport.

Article 55 of the Law on Consumer Protection (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 88/2021) prescribes a short and efficient complaint procedure, as well as numerous duties of traders, which has the effect that traders must act with due care, extremely professionally and responsibly deal with consumer complaints. It is the legal obligation of the trader to:

  • the seller is obliged to visibly display at the point of sale a notification about the manner and place of receiving complaints, as well as to ensure the presence of a person authorized to receive complaints during working hours
  • has free telephone lines for consumers (most often, these are free contact centres) for faster and more efficient communication
  • keeps a book of complaints in printed or electronic form, etc.

Also, the Law on Consumer Protection (“Official Gazette of the RS”, No. 88/2021) ensures a higher level of protection for passengers in air traffic in the following cases:

  1. Prescribes a shorter deadline for responding to a complaint (a deadline of eight days) and resolving it (a deadline of 15 days) compared to the law that regulates contractual obligations in air traffic (a deadline of 60 days). Also, the Montreal Convention does not prescribe a deadline by which the air carrier is obliged to respond and resolve the complaint filed due to lost/damaged luggage.
  2. In a consumer dispute before the court, the consumer does not pay the court fee for the lawsuit and judgment, in the sense of the law regulating civil proceedings, if the value of the subject of the dispute does not exceed the amount of 500,000 dinars. By abolishing the court fee for the lawsuit, access to justice is facilitated in any court proceedings for damages that the consumer may initiate against the air carrier.

Read more:
Accident insurance for passengers in public transport »
Compensation in Traffic »
Conditions for performing the activity of limo service »

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