Abnett v British Airways Plc (Scotland); Sidhu v British Airways Plc [1996] UKHL 5

House of Lords, England


The plaintiffs state that they were detained by the Iraqi forces until about 21 August 1990. In their particulars of injuries they allege that they suffered physical and psychological injuries. These included mental injury comprising stress and anxiety and possible permanent psychological damage as a result, and bodily injury comprising loss of weight, eczema and excessive menstrual bleeding. They also claim for loss of baggage amounting to £2,562.93 as special damages. Their action has been based entirely on negligence at common law. The negligence relied on in their particulars falls under three heads: landing their aircraft in Kuwait when the respondents knew or ought to have known of the hostile situation between Kuwait and Iraq and the possibility that war might break out and Kuwait be invaded; flying their aircraft into a war zone or war situation; and failing to divert their aircraft to a safer airport for refuelling when they knew or ought to have known that Kuwait airport was at risk of being attacked or invaded. They make no claim against the respondents under article 17 of the Convention.


The question in these two appeals is whether the Warsaw Convention as amended at The Hague, 1955, as set out in the Schedule 1 to the Carriage by Air Act 1961, provides the exclusive cause of action and sole remedy for a passenger who claims against the carrier for loss, injury and damage sustained in the course of, or arising out of, international carriage by air.

    In both cases claims were made against the respondents, British Airways Plc., by passengers who had been travelling on a scheduled international flight from the United Kingdom to Malaysia via Kuwait. The flight left London Heathrow for Kuala Lumpur on 1 August 1990. It landed in Kuwait for refuelling on 2 August 1990, about five hours after Iraqi forces had begun to invade Kuwait at the commencement of what became known as the Gulf War. The passengers and crew were all taken prisoner by the Iraqis. They were detained initially at Kuwait Airport, then at Kuwait City and thereafter in Baghdad. The appellants, who were subsequently released and returned to the United Kingdom, claimed damages against the respondents for the consequences of their captivity. Their claims for personal injury were made at common law, as it was accepted that they had no remedy in this regard under article 17 of the Convention.


No discussion yet for this case.

Useful for

No remedy when none available under the Convention

Treaty provisions considered

Article 17 WC29

Article 24 WC29

Warsaw Convention 1929

Legislation considered

None identified.

Key subjects or concepts

Bodily Injury/ Exclusivity/ Scope under MC99/