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Air Law

Air Law

The purpose of this article is to clarify some conceptual aspects of aeronautical law.


Specialization in aviation law is taught in very few university degree academic programs. The reasons may be different:

  • There are not many specialists in the subject and therefore teachers to teach this teaching
  • Those who create university programs do not know this specialization

This issue forces many law graduates to take specialized training courses in the subject because they need it for professional assignments, because they want to acquire that specialization to be able to offer that service or because they are attracted to the subject without knowing exactly what it is.

What is Air Law?

We are not going to provide a masterful definition of the concept of aeronautical law but we are simply going to try to explain what it is by reference to what everyone knows.

Aeronautical law is the sum of a set of rules that result from the specialization of existing subjects.

Thus, it is a specialization of civil law when it regulates liability in air transport, for example, or of commercial law when it deals with issues such as the merger of airline companies, the the sale and purchase of aircraft by a company, or of administrative sanctioning law or criminal when dealing with aeronautical crimes, aeronautical administrative sanctions or urban specialties.


History of Aeronautical Law

Aeronautical law appeared, like any other type of law, to regulate a booming activity, to discipline the rules and limits of its exercise (who, how, limitations, responsibilities to assume in case of violating the rules, etc.) . Hence, after the invention of aviation, and with the beginnings of air navigation, states decided to establish regulations on the matter.

What is characteristic of the origin and evolution of aeronautical law is that, practically from the beginning, there were initiatives in pursuit of reaching international agreements between several countries, which established areas of unified regulations. This is explained by the very nature of the type of transport, which allows rapid travel over long distances, but at the same time it is a means that requires greater technical complexity than others, and that takes place through a space free and deregulated physical space until just over a century ago, like airspace.

Thus, an International Air Navigation Conference was held in 1910, and in 1919 the first international agreement was reached, the Paris Convention, with 38 States parties. And, today, one of the fundamental treaties on air navigation is the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, of 1944, agreed at the Chicago Conference, which gave rise to the creation of the International Civil Organization (ICAO).

ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations with 193 Member States, acting as a global forum to establish international civil aviation standards and recommended practices, incorporating them into the Annexes to the Chicago Convention.

How are aviation regulationsapplied?

In aeronautical regulations, international conventions have special relevance, obviously for international air navigation, and also to serve as a source or inspiration for the aeronautical regulations that regulate domestic or cabotage air navigation.

The aeronautical regulations that regulate domestic air navigation are usually national regulations as well; whether they are standards with legal status or regulatory standards.

International aeronautical treaties

Development of international laws

Within the ICAO, the international conventions of reference in aeronautical law have since been adopted, such as the Chicago Convention of 1994. Also the Montreal Convention of 1999, for the unification of certain rules for air transport. international (successor to the Warsaw Convention of 1929 and its successive protocols); the Tokyo Convention of 1963 on infringements and certain other acts committed on board aircraft; the 1970 Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft; or the Rome Convention of 1952, on damage caused to third parties on the surface by foreign aircraft.

Safety: liability for damage caused by flying objects

The aforementioned Rome Convention of 1952, on damage caused to third parties on the surface by foreign aircraft. This Convention was modified by the Montreal Protocol of 1978.

In 2009, the Montreal Convention on Compensation for Damage Caused to Third Parties by Aircraft and the Convention on Compensation for Damage to Third Parties Resulting from Acts of Unlawful Interference Involving Aircraft were adopted within ICAO, but have not yet entered into in force, nor has Spain ratified them.

Environmental protection

Caring for the environment is a growing concern, and therefore one of the objectives of the ICAO. Although there is no international convention that has such a main objective, ICAO standards are being adopted to mitigate the environmental impacts of civil aviation (that is, alleviate the effects of noise and engine emissions), incorporating them into Annex 16. of the Chicago Convention, dedicated to the Protection of the Environment.

Likewise, in 2016, ICAO approved the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Plan for International Aviation (CORSIA), supported and taken into account by the European Union, within its objectives for reducing CO2 emissions.

Consumer rights

There is not so much of an international aeronautical treaty or treaties dedicated to the protection of consumer rights, although such rights are present directly or indirectly in those agreements that regulate aspects of air passenger transport.

We can thus refer to the 1999 Montreal Convention, whose liability rules in passenger air transport provide greater protection than those contemplated in the Warsaw Convention and successive protocols, by establishing objective or subjective liability regimes with reversal of the burden of liability. the test, along with higher quantitative limits of liability.

Within the European Union, regulations have been promulgated that aim to confer certain protection and rights to consumers, as passengers of air transport. For example, the well-known Regulation (EC) 261/2004, regarding compensation and assistance rights for cancellations, long delays or denied boarding; Regulation (EC) 1107/2006, on the rights of people with disabilities or reduced mobility in air transport; Regulations (EC) 2027/1997 and 889/2002 (incorporating and completing the Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Convention); or the rules of establishment and information on air fares, of Regulation (EC) 1008/2008.

Aeronautical legislation

How are the powers distributed?

The different States, in the exercise of their sovereignty, have full competence to regulate the different aspects of aeronautical law (legal status of aircraft, technical requirements, granting of licenses to provide air transport services, navigation and air traffic regulations, responsibility for damages and accidents, etc.).

Now, due to the very nature of air transport, States are incentivized from practically their origin to favor international air navigation, and therefore reach international conventions or treaties that establish uniform legal regimes for the States that are party to them. These treaties or conventions can be multilateral, especially those adopted within international organizations (such as the ICAO), or bilateral - between two countries - to regulate, for example, air navigation between both countries.

International treaties and conventions must be applied in the States parties with priority or prevalence over domestic laws, within their scope of application.

On the other hand, the European Union, having the capacity to legislate on those matters that generally allow it to achieve its ultimate goals (a single market, with full freedom of movement of people, services, etc.), has been assuming the regulation of numerous aspects of aeronautical law.

National legislations

Development of national regulations

Each State, in the exercise of its sovereignty, establishes the laws and regulations that must govern air navigation and air transport, especially in the field of domestic or cabotage flights, and with respect to air safety. These national laws and regulations will apply in the absence of an international treaty or convention on the matter or, in the case of the European Union, in the absence of prevailing community standards.

The content of said laws and regulations may also be influenced by those international treaties and conventions to which the State is a party.

In Spain, we can highlight as examples of the most important national regulations Law 48/1960, of July 21, on Air Navigation; Law 21/2003, of July 7, on Air Safety; or Royal Decree 57/2002, of January 18, Air Traffic Regulations.

Custom in aviation law

Custom in aeronautical law may have more or less importance in each country. In those countries like Spain, where the law is not of customary creation, the importance seems relative, and in general in those - numerous - aspects of aeronautical law, which require clear and precise regulations, such as the technical requirements that aircraft must meet.

Now, in the field of aviation law, in a manner analogous to custom we find those recommended practices or IATA (international airline association) standards, which, without being strictly legal standards, are followed by the vast majority of airlines; or soft-law regulations in other areas (European Union, national, etc.) that are the embodiment of custom in the sector.

Jurisprudence in aviation law

Although in Spain jurisprudence is not considered a source of law in itself, in practice it does have significance, as it allows us to know how the courts resolve those aviation law disputes in which there is a discussion about how a certain legal provision should be interpreted. . For example, in Spain it is not entirely clear to claim for damages to the passenger, cargo or luggage according to the Montreal Convention; prior extrajudicial claims serve or do not serve to “interrupt” the two-year period provided for in said agreement. The current majority trend in jurisprudence is to consider that it does not interrupt them, a criterion on which depends whether or not legal claims for damages suffered more than two years before. Like the criteria for assessing damages suffered in airplane accidents, which jurisprudence tends to set on those resulting from the Scale for calculating compensation for traffic accidents multiplied by 50% more, without it being a rule in any case. uniform.

Added to this is the jurisprudence of the CJEU, which does provide an authentic interpretation to the courts of all the Member States of the European Union, about how certain provisions of Union regulations specific to aviation law, such as the Regulation, should be interpreted. (EC) 261/2004, but also the Montreal Convention.

Law Firms Specialized in Aeronautical Law

Over time, large law firms have hired specialists in aviation law for the aforementioned areas. Within administrative law, civil law, or commercial or criminal law.

Air transport companies have aviation law professionals on their staff but they also outsource matters to law firms to deal with such important issues as the acquisition of aircraft, the processing of claims...

Sometimes we come across small law firms that have specialized in the field of aviation law. They are small well-known legal boutiques that base their success on the study of the case with highly qualified professionals.

Aeronautical law departments have also been created within general law firms, and this occurs when the firm's clients demand greater specialized assistance.

Thus we can find Clyde & Co on aviation insurance, Augusta Abogados, Osborne & Clarke, Watson Farley & Williams, Pérez LLorca, Uría y Menéndez

Where to Study Aeronautical Law?

There is not a wide variety of training offers in aviation law, whether in Spain, Peru or the rest of the world. And much less at an international level.

The aeronautical law course, is available in person and online, and the diploma in international aeronautical law is only online, both offered by ITAerea Aeronautical Business School.


Job prospects and Employment related to Aeronautical Law

For a law graduate, specialization in aviation law will provide several professional opportunities:

  • Be hired by air transport companies as in-house counsel.
  • Be hired by general law firms that need specialists in the field.
  • Be hired by small specialized legal boutiques.
  • Establish a law firm specialized in the matter.

In any case, it must be noted that there are not many specialists in this matter and within aviation law there are also specializations: aviation insurance, aeronautical leasing, airport urban planning...

ITAerea Aeronautical Business School has:


INSTITUTO TÉCNICO DE FORMACIÓN Y CONSULTORIA AÉREA, S.L. “ITAÉREA” es una empresa, cuya actividad principal es OTRA EDUCACIÓN-FORMACIÓN ESPECIALIZADA y es titular del Sitio Web (en adelante, el Sitio Web), con domicilio en Carril de La Condesa, 58 “Torrre Proconsa” oficina 605-30010- Murcia. España y C.I.F nº CIF nº B-73694895 (en adelante, “la empresa”).

La empresa le garantiza la protección de todos los datos de carácter personal que proporcione el Usuario en el Sitio Web y, en cumplimiento de lo dispuesto en Reglamento (UE) 2016/679 del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo de 27 de abril de 2016, en adelante RGPD, relativo a la protección de las personas físicas en lo que respecta al tratamiento de datos personales y a la libre circulación de estos datos y restante normativa de aplicación, le informa que:

a) El usuario cuyos datos figuran en el presente Formulario, consiente de forma expresa a la empresa, el tratamiento de sus datos personales con objeto de gestionar los servicios, así como la autorización a la comunicación con aquellas entidades respecto de las cuales la empresa, tuviera concertado contrato de prestación y promoción de servicios.

b) Todos los datos de carácter personal facilitados a la empresa serán tratados por ésta, de acuerdo con el RGPD y quedarán incorporados en el Registro de Actividad de Tratamiento PÁGINA WEB, creado y mantenido bajo la responsabilidad de la empresa.

c) En la recogida y el tratamiento de los datos de carácter personal se han adoptado las medidas de seguridad adecuadas para evitar la pérdida, el acceso no autorizado o la manipulación de los mismos, de acuerdo con lo establecido en el RGPD.

d) La empresa se compromete a proteger la información confidencial a la que tenga acceso.

e) La empresa no empleará en ningún caso los datos de carácter personal que usted ponga a su disposición para prestar servicios a terceros distintos a los referidos en el apartado a) del presente documento o, en su caso, para lograr una utilidad propia.

f) El Usuario puede, en todo momento, ejercitar los derechos de acceso, rectificación, cancelación, oposición, supresión o “Derecho al Olvido”, portabilidad así como limitación del tratamiento, sobre sus datos personales así como el de revocación del consentimiento para la empresa a cualquiera de las finalidades antes señaladas, enviando a la empresa carta debidamente firmada a nuestra dirección postal Carril de La Condesa, 58 “Torrre Proconsa” oficina 605-30010- Murcia, España o bien al correo, donde consten claramente los datos de contacto, a la cual deberá acompañarse fotocopia de su DNI/NIF o documento que acredite su identidad.

g) El Usuario autoriza al tratamiento automatizado de los datos personales suministrados en los términos indicados. Para ello pulse el botón “ENVIAR” que se encuentra tras el formulario de contacto: