Ethiopian Law of International Carriage by Air: An Overview

Author:Hailegabriel G. Feyissa
Position:Lecturer in Law (Bahir Dar University) and Attorney at Law (ANRS); LLB (Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia)
Pages:215-245
SUMMARY

Ethiopia’s aviation history goes back to the late 1920s. And, carriage of goods and passengers by air dates at least as far back as the 1940s - the decade which witnessed the establishment of Ethiopian Air Lines Corporation (now Ethiopian Airlines). Despite Ethiopia’s relative success in commercial aviation, domestic literature on commercial air law has been scanty. Court decisions involving air... (see full summary)

 
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ETHIOPIAN LAW OF INTERNATIONAL CARRIAGE
BY AIR: AN OVERVIEW
Hailegabriel G. Feyissa
Abstract
Ethiopia’s aviation history goes back to the late 1920s. And, carriage of goods
and passengers by air dates at least as far back as the 1940s – the decade which
witnessed the establishment of Ethiopian Air Lines Corporation (now Ethiopian
Airlines). Despite Ethiopia’s relative success in commercial aviation, domestic
literature on commercial air law has been scanty. Court decisions involving air
carriage are rare, and one can seldom find a course on air law in the curricula of
Ethiopian law schools. This article is an attempt to briefly address the gap in
literature and encourage further academic discourse on Ethiopian law of air
carriage with particular attention to the law and practice regarding international
carriage by air.
Key words:
Air law, international carriage by air, the 1929 Warsaw Convention, liability of
the carrier, documents of carriage, limitation of liability of the carrier
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v5i2.2
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Introduction
The law on carriage by air forms part of air law (civil aviation law).1 It is that
part of air law governing the liability of air carrier under contract of air
carriage.2 Historically, it dates only as far back as the early 20th century when
aerial navigation began the transition from myth to reality.3 Though domestic
Lecturer in Law (Bahir Dar University) and Attorney at Law (ANRS); LLB (Bahir
Dar University, Ethiopia); LLM in International Economic and Business Law
(University of Groningen, the Netherlands). The author can be reached at
<hailegabrielfeyissa@gmail.com>.
1 Air law may be defined “part of law relating to civil aviation.” It deals with range of
aviation matters including, but not limited to, registration of aircraft, aviation safety,
movement of aircraft across airspace, provision of aeronautical services, aviation
crime, and carriage by air. Air law can be interchangeably used with aviation law; see
Benyam T. & Hailegabriel G. (2010), International Air & Space Law Module. Bahir
Dar, Bahir Dar University, p. 3.
2 Accordingly, it determines the basis of the carrier’s liability, the limits of liability, and
other related matters such as contents and forms of travel documents, jurisdiction and
limitation of liability.
3 See, e.g., Hudson, M. (1930) “Aviation and International Law,” The American Journal
of International Law, (24), p.229-230 [hereinafter Hudson]; In contrast, the law on sea
216 MIZAN LAW REVIEW Vol. 5 No.2, December 2011
legislations on private and public air law had already existed even before the
20th century,4 discussions regarding carriage by air began5 since the 1900s – the
decade which saw the Wright Brothers (Orville and Wilbur Right) successfully
carry out “the first controlled powered flight of airplane.”6
Air law in general and the law on carriage by air in particular developed
mainly within an international context.7 The initial efforts to codify the law on
international carriage by air were facilitated by Comité Juridique International
de l’Aviation which in 1911 drafted a code of air law.8 Further, it conducted two
diplomatic conferences the second of which was held in Warsaw, Poland where
numerous states gathered to consider a draft convention prepared by a
committee of experts drawn from different countries. Agreement was eventually
reached over a convention which became the Convention for the Unification of
Certain Rules relating to International Carriage by Air (the 1929 Warsaw
Convention).
Ethiopia was not among the original signatories to the Warsaw Convention.
Ethiopia started its aviation history a few years after the Warsaw Convention
was signed.9 However, it took steps in ratifying and subsequently giving effect
carriage dates as far back as 900 B.C; see, e.g. Hailegabriel, G. (2008) Maritime Law
Teaching Material. Addis Ababa, JLSRI, p.12.
4 Laws regulating balloon flights were in place in, for example, France during the 18th
century; see Diederiks–Verschoor, I. (2001) An Introduction to Air Law. The Hague,
Kluwer Law International, p.2 [hereinafter Diederiks –Verschoor]
5 See, e.g., Kuhn, A. (1910) “The Beginnings of An Aerial Law,” American Journal of
International Law, (4), p.109 et seq.; Baldwin, S. (1910) “The Law of the Airship,”
American Journal of International Law, (4), 95 et seq.
6 Jordan, T. (1953-1954) “Aviation, Past and Present,” The Wisconsin Magazine of
History, (37), p.79 [hereinafter Jordan]; Tuan, K. (1965) “Aviation Insurance in
America,” The Journal of Risk and Insurance, (32), pp. 1-2[hereinafter Tuan]; within
less than two decades of the 1903 Wright Brothers’ attempted flight, airplanes began
to be used for passenger and cargo transportation. By late 1910s and early 1920s, there
had already been some commercial flights in the US and Europe. Historical records
show Ethiopia did not wait long before joining the aviation world. Before the Italian
Occupation (1936-1941), domestic routes were opened to, for instance, to Bishoftu
(see note 9 infra); see, e.g. Jordan, p.80; Tuan, p.2; Diederiks–Verschoor, supra note
4, p.2.
7 In this regard, the role of the Institute of International Law, which was engaged in the
study of the law governing aviation since 1900, is worth considering; see generally
Hudson, pp. 228-240; Diederiks–Verschoor, supra note 4, p.2-8; Philipson, G. & et al.
(2001) Carriage by Air. London, Butterworths, § 1.1 – 1.54 [hereinafter Philipson].
8 Ibid, Philipson, § 1.4 –1.5.
9 The year 1929 witnessed the arrival in Ethiopia of a French aircraft. Interestingly, the
years preceding the Italian Occupation showed developments in the use of civil

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