Spotlight on key liability issues for the aviation sector in Serbia
All the questions
Legal framework of liability
i International transportation
The importance of regulating contractual legal relations and damage caused by air traffic was recognized, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was one of the High Contracting Parties to the Warsaw Convention.9 Serbia, as the successor to the FRY, accepted the Montreal Convention (1999) a decade later on April 4, 2010. In doing so, Serbia replaced the old Warsaw Convention and subsequent protocols with resolutions much more sophisticated and internationally uniform legal frameworks related to international relations. air transport to determine the liability of air carriers and the corresponding compensation for damage to passengers, baggage and cargo. These changes have led to a different approach to carrier liability; the air carrier becomes responsible for the death or bodily injury of passengers (two cases) and thus obtains a much fairer system. Fairness translates into faster compensation for damages, which avoids unnecessary and costly legal proceedings and improves passenger protection. All of this leads to a balance of carrier and passenger interests.
Amendments to the Law on Changes in Obligations and Ownership and Legal Relations in Air Carriage in accordance with the provisions of the Montreal Convention of 1999 have brought concrete improvements in the field of passenger rights, prescribing a procedure on how travelers can assert their rights. This has also been done to comply with applicable regulations in the EU, including Regulation 261/2004 on common rules on damage and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and flight cancellation or flight delay, and Regulation 1107/2006 on the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility in air transport.
ii Domestic transport and other non-conventional transport
For many years, Serbia has had two basic laws that regulate legal relations regarding aviation and air traffic. These are the air transport lawten and the Basic Ownership Obligations and Relations in Air Transport Act. Law on Fundamental Obligations and Ownership Relations in Air Transport.11 The Air Transport Act regulates the public air transport sector. It is based on the provisions of the Chicago Convention and prescribes the competence of Serbian authorities to act in aviation matters. It also empowers the DAC to issue regulations and other documents that fully regulate air transport. Since its first publication, the Air Transport Act has undergone five amendments, the most recent of which dates back to the beginning of 2020 and amended the chapter on aviation security with regard to security personnel and security oversight.
The Basic Ownership Obligations and Relations in Air Transport Act has dealt since 2011 with private law issues in the field of aviation and includes a number of original provisions as well as provisions reflecting those found in foreign legislation and in the 1999 Montreal Convention.
Other important laws recently enacted are the Aviation, Railways and Inland Water Transport Accident Investigation Act 201512 and the Airports Management Act 2016 (which is the most recent law passed in the area of air traffic).13
iii General Aviation Regulations
All air transport for commercial or non-commercial purposes is subject to the Carriage by Air Act, under Article 74. However, any type of flight is subject to the “Rules of the Air” in Article 4a of the same law. Serbian airspace is classified into three classes: C, D and G. As determined by the Aircraft Operation Regulation,14 flight rules for aircraft performing general traffic in Serbian airspace are prescribed, as well as the content, manner of submission, modification and termination of flight plans in general air traffic.
With the aforementioned regulation and the amendment of the Air Transport Act, Articles 1 to 5, 11 and 12, and Appendices 1 to 3 and 5 of the Annex to Commission Regulation (EU) No 923/2012 of September 26, 2012, have been replaced.
Serbian air traffic key subjects such as airlines, airport operators, SMATSA as ANSP, aviation technical organizations and DAC designated organizations are primarily responsible for the safe conduct of their business and of their services, as well as to ensure that employees carry out their tasks without hindrance.
iv Passenger rights
The provisions relating to the rights of passengers in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellation or long delay are governed by Article 19 of the Law on Fundamental Obligations and Land Relations in Air Transport. If an airline that denies boarding, cancels a flight or suffers long delays does not follow the procedure prescribed by law, it is necessary to approach the passenger aviation authorities and the CAD. The CAD prescribes the procedure for passengers who have been denied the right to file claim forms with the air carrier or the CAD. There are additional documents that clarify the legal provisions of the law on basic obligations and property relationships in air transport. The CAD has issued rules on passengers’ rights in the event of denied boarding, flight cancellations or delays to economy class flights and accommodation and on the rights of passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility. The CAD is competent to supervise and ensure the implementation of the provisions of the law relating to the rights of passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or delay of flights or to investigate when the provisions have violated the rights of persons with disabilities. and with reduced mobility.
Considering that the pandemic is not officially over, the 2020 EU recommendations15 and government regulation 343-3718/2020-1 recommending airlines to issue a voucher to passengers for flight cancellations due to extraordinary circumstances caused by covid-19, continue to serve as the basis for passengers to exercise their rights .
v Other legislationTravel
In addition to the provisions governing the conditions and methods of planning and development of tourism and tourist organizations for the promotion of tourism, the law on tourism16 defines the work of travel agencies and tour operators as being to protect tourists and users of travel agency services. The provisions governing the relationship of each airline and travel agency or operator are determined by Article 2, paragraphs 1 and 2, and Articles 4 and 7 of the Law on Fundamental Obligations and Patrimonial Relations in Air Transport. These articles regulate contractual matters in air transport and the general conditions of air transport.
The emergence of covid-19 was the reason why the government suspended flight operations for all commercial flights in Serbia in spring 2020,17 resulting in a complete disruption of the work of travel agencies organizing air travel.
Covid-19 has caused major disruptions in the tourism and air transport sectors, and epidemiological risks remain. Therefore, the Serbian government always recommends its citizens to check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before traveling to see if there are any epidemiological restrictions for the particular country they wish to travel to.
The Air Transport Act, in Section 9, Articles 200 and 203, covers the issue of environmental protection regulations, duties of the airport operator, noise levels and permissible emissions in airports, noise measurement and the field of noise protection. In practice, the rules on this subject are entirely based on the provisions of Directive 2002/49/EC, as well as Recommendation 2003/613/EC. The Minister for Transport is responsible for the application of these guidelines, with the consent of the Minister for Environmental Protection.18
Serbia is considering adopting a regulation on operating restrictions related to noise emissions at airports, which would be replaced by Regulation (EU) No 598/2014.
With regard to specific airport operators, environmental issues related to noise in particular have been topical in recent years and this mainly concerns Belgrade airport. Specifically, Belgrade Airport has recently experienced a significant increase in traffic and acquired hub status, exceeding the limit of 50,000 operations per year.19 As Belgrade airport is governed by European regulations which have been transposed into national frameworks, it is now mandatory to measure noise at the airport continuously and to draw up strategic noise maps.20 In addition to the above, Belgrade Airport has joined the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) program and thus obtained an ACA certificate.21
The areas of competence of the CAD include the control of environmental protection activities, in particular through the control of the airworthiness of aircraft and airport matters. In accordance with prescribed environmental standards, the CAD has an obligation to provide information within 48 hours if there is a threat to environmental protection in relation to civil aviation.22