Knowledge Platform

Embarkation and Disembarkation

What constitutes ‘embarkation’ and ‘disembarkation’ has already created a legal ‘grey area’ particularly in relation to carriage by air and sea [1] which has to date in the main been dealt with at a national level in the courts of the various Member States as a matter of fact. The underlying legal issue being whether any claim for compensation for example should properly be dealt with by the carrier under one of the various international/European passenger rights regimes (where the damage/loss is caused during the course of embarkation or disembarkation) or by another party entirely (i.e. the ‘occupier’ or party in control of the area where the incident occurred) (or more likely their public liability insurers), where as a matter of fact it is determined that the passenger was not embarking or disembarking from the mode of transport – but suffered loss or damage en route in an area not within the control of the carrier. This ‘grey area’ becomes wider still, when considered in the context of creating an infrastructure to facilitate the emergence of a multi-modal transport ecosystem through the development of transport hubs and is an issue that will need to be addressed as between the various transport service providers and where applicable ground handlers/other service providers on the ground at the various transport hubs through a series of contractual arrangements and indemnities.

In the interests of creating seamless connectivity between the modes:

Will it be possible to identify as a matter of fact where disembarkation from one mode of transport ends and embarkation to another commences – such that the appropriate liability regime can be engaged?

What will the role of ground-handlers be at these hubs?

As more multi-modal transport hubs emerge and case law develops:

Is it possible that the scope of what is considered embarkation/disembarkation will be extended to bridge any perceived liability gap? 

[1] See the English case of Stott v Thomas Cook Tour Operators Limited [2014] UKSC 15, for a factual consideration of whether the particulars of the claimant’s injury related exclusively to events on the aircraft.