Montreal Convention – Blot on Georgian Civil Aviation Landscape
20 December, 2012
 Montreal Convention – Blot on Georgian Civil Aviation Landscape
Georgia should join the civil aviation convention of Montreal -1999 if it wants to be a full member of the international civil aviation community and cares for national civil aviation development. Georgian air passengers are the less protected passengers in Europe and, perhaps, in the world, as far as Georgia has not acknowledged any civil aviation convention protecting consumers’ rights. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) member of which Georgia is at the moment, is focused more on technical security st
andards and protection of consumers’ rights is its weak point.
There are several conventions caring for passengers’ interests; however, they all include mutually exclusive terms when the matter is taken to the court. To streamline the said regulation, the international civil aviation pundits created the Montreal Convention of 1999 on Unification of Some Regulations of International Air Transportation. By today, the Montreal - 1999 suggests the best balance of protection interests of both passengers and air companies.
It is a guarantee that consumers’ rights will be protected as much as possible and passengers as well as cargo forwarders and receivers will be decently compensated if cargos are damaged/lost and flights delayed/canceled. It includes a comprehensive chain of insured responsibilities: air-companies have to insure their financial responsibilities at insurance companies that in their turn evaluate the flights’ security level and outline the insurance margin to the air-company.
Otherwise, it compels air-companies to be volunteers in provision of the consumer-friendly safe service: higher security-and-insurance standards and strong flight schedules – all that Georgian civil aviation lacks at the moment. This requires extra but reasonable investments in security of course but the cost is worth of price as it increases the competitive power of the company and attracts more passengers, Mikheil Nadareishvili, a civil aviation specialist having worked at Georgian civil aviation administration within 1994-2010, said in his exclusive interview to Georgian Journal.
According to him, air-companies that come from the Montreal 1999 member countries may face much higher costs if they delay or are late with the flights: the convention charges by around USD 450 to pay each registered passenger of the delayed or canceled flights. In case of fatal outcome of the flight resulted in death or injure of a passenger air-companies bear very strict responsibilities: they cannot exclude their responsibilities or fix limits to it unless the loss figure exceeds SDR 100 thousand [Special Drawing Rights]. The convention also requires strong insurance of baggage/cargo transportation and air-company endorses its legal responsibilities on baggage delivery with passengers, as well as with the cargo forwarders and receivers separately. Briefly, air-companies are better to meet all Montreal obligations rather than pay off fines.
However, the Montreal convention protects only passengers and air-companies within its member-states. And since Georgia is not a member as of yet it is discriminated at the international market in fact: all the Montreal-member air-companies that fly to Georgia require from Georgian air-companies [implementing international flights] to observe the Montreal terms while they are free of similar obligation in Georgia. Otherwise, Georgian consumers are vulnerable to risks and depend only on good will of foreign air-companies. And while risks with Montreal-member companies are low as far as they do observe security standards, they are higher with the companies from non-Montreal space including all the post-Soviet-Union countries except the Baltic republics and Ukraine. All the European countries as well as other more-less developed countries making more than half of the world are under the Montreal 1999 umbrella.
“All countries that care for human being have already joined Montreal 1999. And if we acknowledge that the best achievement of humanity is a man we should also join it as far as Montreal convention protects consumers’ rights as much as possible,” Nadareishvili said.
According to him, the enrollment procedures are quite simple and free of charge - the entire procedure takes around 6 months since the initiating the issue at parliament. The issue has been raised for several times with previous governments of Georgia but ignored each time. Nadareishvili thinks the permanent changes at Georgian civil aviation and lack of long-term strategy of the national civil aviation development was the key reason to that.
Otherwise Georgia has no reason to linger with the membership of the Montreal 1999: it requires no extra financial burden as far as Georgian air-companies and most part of their foreign peers have already allocated due investments to secure Montreal’s “voluntary” safety standards otherwise they would not be admitted to the best half of the world protected by Montreal - 1999; On the other hand, it may bring only benefits to Georgia as it will improve country’s image and attract more passengers and cargos to Georgian airlines.
“The membership of Montreal means highest security standards and consumer always opts for secure flights,” Nadareishvili elaborates.
This automatically increases competitive power of Georgian air-companies that obviously cannot compete with wealthy foreign companies backed by huge financial resources. The only asset Georgian air-companies can rely at international competition is the comprehensive legal basis that is much below the par without Montreal 1999. Moreover, Georgian consumers will be protected on the equal footage with the citizens of developed world and authorized to run the litigation with the air companies at the place of residence if necessary.
“As soon as you join the Montreal convention it means you become a full member of international civil aviation community. Developing legal basis is of crucial importance to Georgia if it is intent to develop national aviation as far as it can be the only asset to resist the international competition,” Nadareishvili said.
On the other hand, developed air transportation is crucial for Georgia if it wants to take its dream niche of a transit hub in the South Caucasus region to bridge the Middle Asia to Europe. The country with its favorable geopolitical location and developed railway, land and sea transportation infrastructure has full potential to aspire for the regional hub function and underdeveloped civil aviation might be the only blot on the landscape.
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