Contract of carriage

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A contract of carriage is a contract between a carrier of cargo or passengers and the consignor, consignee or passenger.[1] Contracts of carriage typically define the rights, duties and liabilities of parties to the contract, addressing topics such as acts of God and including clauses such as force majeure (removing liability for extraordinary occurrences beyond control of the parties).[2] Among common carriers, they are usually evidenced by standard terms and conditions printed on the reverse of a ticket or carriage document. Notification of a shipment’s arrival is usually sent to the "notify party", whose address appears on the shipping document. This party is usually either the buyer or the importer.

Air travel[edit]

In July 2010, it became widely public that Southwest Airlines had classified mechanical difficulties as an act of God in their contract of carriage, expanding the definition formerly shared with Delta, American, Continental and United.[3] This was later clarified by the airline as mechanical difficulties beyond the airline's control, as for instance the failure of the air traffic control system, or fuel delivery systems operated by airports.

Involuntary denied boarding[edit]

Airlines may sell more tickets for a flight than the number of seats that are actually available. This overselling can result in too many passengers turning up for a flight. When this happens, the airline first asks for volunteers to give up their seat in return for compensation. However, if there are not enough volunteers, the airline itself designates which passengers will have to give up their seats. This process is called involuntary denied boarding or (less formally) bumping.[4]

The rate of passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding is around 1 in 10,000 and has been falling for the 25 years between 1990 and 2015.[5]

According to aviation analyst Henry Harteveldt, the airline's contract of carriage[6] favors the company, not the passenger. Involuntary denial of boarding is not uncommon[7] but removal after boarding because the seat is needed by others is "exceedingly rare". Nonetheless, an airline has a right to do so based on the contract, in his view. "Remember, it is their aircraft and their seat — you're just renting it to get from point A to point B," Harteveldt told Business Insider.[8]

Rail travel[edit]

Cross-border European railway tickets are covered by the CIV conditions of sale.


  1. ^ "CONTRACT OF CARRIAGE Definition & Legal Meaning". Black's Law Dictionary (2nd ed.). Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  2. ^ "CONDITIONS OF CARRIAGE Definition & Legal Meaning". Black's Law Dictionary (2nd ed.). Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  3. ^ "Southwest: Breakdown is now an act of God". Arizona Daily Star. July 24, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-27.
  4. ^ "Bumping & Oversales". U.S. Department of Transportation. April 15, 2021. Archived from the original on November 15, 2022. Retrieved November 17, 2022.
  5. ^ Passengers Boarded and Denied Boarding by the Largest U.S. Air Carriers - US DOT
  6. ^ "Airline Contracts of Carriage". Airfare Watchdog. Smarter Travel Media LLC. Retrieved April 12, 2017. What are your rights if an airline delays or cancels your flight, or loses your bags? What are the airlines' rules and regulations
  7. ^ "United bumps more passengers than any other large American airline". The Economist. April 11, 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  8. ^ Zhang, Benjamin (April 10, 2017). "How airlines like United choose who to kick off a flight". Business Insider. Business Insider Inc. Retrieved April 12, 2017.

External links[edit]

Airline contracts