The Montreal Convention 1999: the rock on which a claim for injury to feelings foundered

On 5 March 2014, the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in Stott v Thomas Cook Tour Operators Ltd. While the decision is broadly unsurprising, it provides a welcome affirmation for airlines of the substantive and temporal scope of the Montreal Convention 1999 and affords a degree of clarity in respect of the interplay between the exclusivity of the convention and EU law. Further, the decision may have significant international influence if, as anticipated, it is treated as persuasive in the pending appeal of the similar case of Michel Thibodeau v Air Canada, in which judgment is expected to be handed down by the Canadian Supreme Court within the next six months.

The appeal before the Supreme Court, which attracted significant global interest, was brought by Mr Stott, supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with the Secretary of State for Transport acting as intervener.

Mr Stott brought proceedings against Thomas Cook for discomfort and injury to feelings as a result of its failure to meet his seating needs on board a flight from Zante, Greece, to East Midlands Airport, UK, in 2008. Mr Stott, who is paralysed from the shoulders down and requires the permanent use of a wheelchair, arranged with Thomas Cook to be seated next to his wife on his outbound journey to Greece and return so that she could attend to his personal needs during their flights. On the return journey, Mr Stott was seated separately from his wife, who encountered significant difficulty attending to him during the three-hour, 20-minute journey…

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