Montreal Convention — Your Passenger Rights on International Flights
The Montreal Convention, or MC99, protects millions of air passengers who fly internationally every year. It covers damages to travelers’ health or luggage, including when flights have been delayed or canceled. However, unlike regulations such as the EU’s EC 261, which provides clear guidelines about compensation amounts, the Montreal Convention operates on a case-by-case basis and is much more difficult to navigate.
We’ll go into more detail about the Convention and what protection it offers you, but to quickly understand what you’re entitled to, simply enter your flight details into our free Eligibility Checker:
Montreal Convention compensation
What is the Montreal Convention?
The Montreal Convention (MC99) is a universal treaty that holds airlines liable for injuries or damages that occurred either en route or as a result of delayed or canceled flights, as well as damaged or lost luggage and cargo.
What does this mean for passengers? Well, if you can prove you lost money because of something the airline did (such as delay or cancel your flight, or lose your luggage) the Montreal Convention says you have the right to claim that money back.
MC99 doesn’t offer the same level of air passenger protection as Europe’s EC 261 regulation, for example. However it is currently honored by over 135 countries. That means it creates a good basic standard of protection which applies to almost all international flights worldwide.
What compensation can I get?
The Montreal Convention does not specify any amounts of compensation in the case of delays or cancellations. Rather it allows passengers to claim for damages. So if you miss a prepaid reservation, have to pay for an extra night at a hotel, or rack up any other unforeseen expenses due to air travel problems, you can get reimbursed up to a maximum amount of $7,000.
MC99 also provides financial compensation, up to a limit of $1,700, for luggage issues, including damaged bags, delayed bags, or lost luggage. Be aware there are strict time limits on these laws, so you must file a claim as soon as possible.
The Montreal Convention in detail
What’s not covered? Extraordinary circumstances
Read the laws
The Montreal Convention (MC99) applies in many situations including delays, cancellations, overbooking, injury caused as a result of a flight, and loss and damage to luggage.
What’s crucial is that the Convention only applies to international flights. It does not cover domestic flights that are flying within one country.
The exception is if your departure city and arrival city are in the same country, but your flight route took a planned stopover in a different country. For example, if you had a flight in a member nation such as China, but had a stopover in a different country such as India. In these cases, it will be considered an international flight. However, if you had a direct flight, it will be considered a domestic flight and will not be protected by the Montreal Convention.
Montreal Convention countries
The Montreal Convention applies to all international flights between countries and territories that honor the regulation. Currently, over 135 countries and territories abide by the Montreal Convention.
All member states of the European Union and the majority of the UN member states recognize the Convention. That means almost all major aviation markets are members.
Here’s a complete list of Montreal Convention countries:
What’s not covered? Extraordinary circumstances
Extraordinary circumstances are situations in which the airline is not considered at fault for the delay, and are, therefore, not obligated to pay damages.
Some examples of extraordinary circumstances are:
- Weather issues
- Safety or security risks
- Political unrest
- Strikes initiated by airport employees or air traffic control
It’s worth noting that airlines must still show that they have taken reasonable measures to prevent any delays or cancellations. For example, if you were delayed due to bad weather, but other airlines had adequately prepared for the situation and were able to prevent a significant delay, you should still be entitled to claim.
The Montreal Convention (MC99) is nowhere near as comprehensive as other air passenger rights regulations such as Europe’s EC 261 or Brazil’s ANAC 400 when it comes to protecting customers who suffer flight delays and cancellations.
Rather than clearly setting rights to compensation, MC99 uses the word damages to talk about what passengers are entitled to. Outside of an actual injury incurred while flying, passengers can claim damages resulting from delays, including delays due to cancellations and overbooking.
The amount you can claim depends on what happened in your case – but the Montreal Convention sets an upper limit. MC99 uses the currency of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called Special Drawing Rights (SDR), so we’ve provided approximate conversions.
|Maximum claim for delay (per person)|
However, the interpretation of what exactly damages includes can vary greatly depending on where your case is being handled.
In many jurisdictions like the United States, damages are limited to monetary losses — If you miss a prepaid reservation, have to pay for an extra night at a hotel, or rack up any other unforeseen expenses due to air travel problems, you should be reimbursed. It’s usually necessary to provide documentation of the incident and proof of added expenses — so hold onto any receipts.
In other parts of the world, like the EU, a different interpretation of the regulation means passengers may be able to claim for emotional damages as well. These distinctions are taken on a case-by-case basis though and if you need more info, we advise seeking specialist professional counsel.
The Montreal Convention is extremely useful for ensuring you can claim reimbursement for all forms of baggage problem, including delayed, lost, and damaged bags.
Under the terms of the convention, if the issue happened while the bag was in the care of the airline, passengers can claim back up to $1,700 for it.
|Maximum claim for luggage (per person)|
Be aware that there are strict time limits on some baggage claims. So if your luggage doesn’t arrive when it was supposed to, or if your bags arrived badly damaged let the airline know immediately, preferably while you’re still at the airport.
Claims for damaged bags must be submitted within 7 days, delayed baggage within 21 days. Bags lost for longer than 21 days are considered lost, and you will then have 2 years to file a claim.
You’ll be asked to provide your boarding pass and checked-luggage receipts, so always hold on to them.
Under the Montreal Convention, delayed baggage means you can claim for replacement items that are essential for your trip. Essential doesn’t only cover clothes and toiletries. For example, if you’re on a ski trip and the airline loses your skis, you can claim the cost of hiring replacements until they return yours to you. Always hold onto your receipts!
If it is clear your luggage has been completely lost or damaged, you can claim for reimbursement of the value.
Remember that the Montreal Convention can only protect baggage on international flights, though there are also some national laws, such as US air passenger rights which can also help. We have a lot more information on our luggage compensation page.
|Issue||Time to claim|
|Flight delay||2 years|
|Damaged bag||7 days|
|Delayed bag||21 days|
|Lost bag||2 years|
The Montreal Convention (MC99) allows you to claim compensation for damages up to 2 years after your flight disruption. However, we strongly recommend that you submit your claim as soon as possible after the event occurs.
If you want to claim for your damaged, lost, or delayed luggage, report it as quickly as possible, as MC99 has stricter time limits for these.
Damaged baggage claims must be submitted within 7 days, and Montreal Convention delayed baggage claims must be made within 21 days. Bags that have been missing for longer than 21 days are considered to be lost, which means that you will have 2 years to file a claim.
Montreal Convention claims with AirHelp
AirHelp may be able to help if:
Due to the extra work involved in handling MC99 claims, we can currently only support MC99 claims for our AirHelp+ customers.
We are exploring other ways we can help all passengers, including baggage claims and combining MC99 claims with our existing flight compensation service.