Passenger case remanded because “international transportation” not involved

Christoph v. American Airlines (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 17, 2006).  The passengers bought roundtrip tickets on American for travel between New York (LGA) and Ft. Lauderdale using the airline’s web site, and separately, they bought roundtrip tickets on another airline for travel between Miami and Brazil using a travel agent.  After their vacation in Brazil, the passengers returned to Miami and then took an American flight from Ft. Lauderdale to LGA, where they discovered that some of their baggage was missing.

The passengers filed a lawsuit against American in a New York state court.  The airline removed the case to federal court, claiming federal question jurisdiction under the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions.  The passengers moved to remand the case to state court on the grounds that the case did not involve “international transportation” within the meaning of the Warsaw Convention.

The court agreed with the passengers and remanded the case.  The most compelling fact, in the court’s view, was that American was not able to produce any evidence that it knew of the passengers’ international destination.  Thus, according to the court, American could not satisfy the Warsaw Convention’s requirement that both parties view the domestic and international flights at issue as a “single operation.”

Even though the Montreal Convention supplanted the Warsaw Convention in November 2003 and the travel at issue took place in 2005, the court analyzed this matter under the Warsaw Convention.

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