El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. v. Tsui Yuan Tseng, 525 U.S. 155 (1999)

Supreme Court of the United States


On May 22, 1993, Tsui Yuan Tseng arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport (hereinafter JFK) to board an EI Al Israel Airlines flight to Tel Aviv. In conformity with standard EI Al preboarding procedures, a security guard questioned Tseng about her destination and travel plans. The guard considered Tseng’s responses “illogical,” and ranked her as a “high risk” passenger. Tseng was taken to a private security room where her baggage and person were searched for explosives and detonating devices. She was told to remove her shoes, jacket, and sweater, and to lower her blue jeans to mid-hip. A female security guard then searched Tseng’s body outside her clothes by hand and with an electronic security wand.

After the search, which lasted 15 minutes, EI Al personnel decided that Tseng did not pose a security threat and allowed her to board the flight. Tseng later testified that she “was really sick and very upset” during the flight, that she was “emotionally traumatized and disturbed” during her month long trip in Israel, and that, upon her return, she underwent medical and psychiatric treatment for the lingering effects of the body search.


The question was whether the plaintiff could recover under local tort law in circumstances where no claim could be successfully made under the Warsaw Convention, in effect putting the Convention to one side. At III:

We accept it as given that EI AI’s search of Tseng was not an “accident” within the meaning of Article 17, for the parties do not place that Court of Appeals conclusion at issue. See supra, at 165 and this page, n. 9. We also accept, again only for purposes of this decision, that EI AI’s actions did not constitute “wilful misconduct”; accordingly, we confront no issue under Article 25 of the Convention, see supra, at 163, Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd, 499 U. S. 530, 552 (1991), a condition that both the District Court and the Court of Appeals determined Tseng did not meet, see 919 F. Supp., at 158; 122 F. 3d, at 104. The question whether the Convention precludes an action under local law when a passenger’s claim fails to satisfy Article 17’s conditions for liability does not turn on which of those conditions the claim fails to satisfy.


No discussion yet for this case.

Useful for

No remedy when none available under the Convention

Treaty provisions considered

Article 24 WC29

Warsaw Convention 1929

Legislation considered

None identified.

Key subjects or concepts

Exclusivity/ Mental Injury/