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Special provisions for the international air transport to and from China


​In addition to rail transport, airfreight is also a frequently chosen mode for goods traffic to and from China. The largest cargo airports in China are in descending order Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Zhengzhou and Chongqing. China ratified relevant international conventions in this field, such as the Montreal Convention 1999 and the Warsaw Convention 1929 in the version as amended at the Hague 1955.



As the majority of international air transports to and from China will be governed by the Montreal Convention, only this convention will be considered here.


Key provisions

Some key provisions can be summarized as follows:



  • There is no direct provision that consignor has to package goods adequately for carriage by air, but if consignor does not pack adequately carrier might be able to escape liability (see below).


  • The airfreight carrier is liable for damage caused by damage, loss, destruction or delay caused by an incident during the air transport (care of the airfreight carrier).The period of carriage by air generally does not extend to carriage by other modes of transport (some exceptions are mentioned ).
  • Carrier is liable for damage caused by a delay in the carriage by air.


  • Carrier is not liable if and to the extent it proves that destruction, or loss of, or damage to cargo resulted from one or more of the following:
  1. inherent defect, quality or vice of cargo;
  2. defective packing of cargo performed by a person other than the carrier or its servants or agents;
  3. an act of war or an armed conflict;
  4. an act of public authority carried out  in connection with the entry, exit or transit of the cargo (customs).
  • Carrier is not liable for damage caused by delay if it proves that it and its servants and agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to avoid damage or that it was impossible for it or them to take such measures.
  • If carrier proves damage was caused or contributed to by negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the person claiming compensation, or the person from whom he or she derives his or her rights, carrier is wholly or partly exonerated from liability to extent that such negligence or wrongful act or omission caused or contributed to the damage.
  • Receipt by person entitled to delivery of cargo without complaint is prima facie evidence that the same has been delivered in good condition and in accordance with the document of carriage.
  • In case of damage, person entitled to delivery must complain in writing to the carrier forthwith after the discovery of the damage and at latest within fourteen days from date of receipt. In case of delay complaint must be made at latest within twenty-one days from date on which cargo delivered.
  • If no complaint is made within these times, no action lies against carrier, unless there was fraud on its part.


  • Liability of carrier for destruction, loss, damage or delay is limited to 19 Special Drawing Rights per kilogram.
  • Weight to be taken into consideration is total weight of package or packages concerned.
  • No contracting out/below limitation is possible.
  • Special value declaration above limitation is possible against a fee to carrier.


  • Actions against carriers have to be brought within two years, from date of arrival at destination, or from date on which aircraft ought to have arrived, or from date on which carriage stopped.


For national air transportations in China or where the Montreal Convention does not apply or regulate a particular matter, the Civil Aviation Law of the People's Republic of China contains further provisions.

For more information, please see our article about the applicable transport liability regimes for shipping goods from and to China.
Further special regulations also apply in rail transport, maritime transport and in the case of multimodal transport.

        Updated 26 June 2017


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