Thanks for the interesting contract law question, nice2fly. I like to
consider myself somewhat of a contracts expert, but I must admit that
I had not looked into this specific question before. Thanks for
Law Professor Jean Braucher of the University of Arizona wrote in the
Wayne State (Michigan) Law Review: In the case of airline tickets,
most of the material in the ticket is dictated by U.S. Department of
Transportation regulations requiring waivers of liability limits
provided for in the Warsaw Convention (see Laurence E. Gessell,
Aviation and the Law at XIV-29 (1986) and by federal regulations
dealing with overbooking and liability for baggage loss (id. At XIV-31
to XIV-33). 46 Wayne L. Rev. 1805, 1824 (Winter 2000).
So, to the extent that the issue is governed by federal law or
regulation the type of ticket is of no concern, paper or paper-less
Now the conditions of carriage (aka contracts of carriage) for the
airlines are not markedly different, line to line: Here are the sites
for the four major carriers:
United Airlines: http://www.ual.com/site/primary/0,10017,2671,00.html
Northwest Airlines: http://www.nwa.com/contract2.pdf
I have searched law reviews and case law from across the United States
on the topic of e-tickets and found but one solitary case, but an
interesting case nonetheless:
In the April 2002 case of DArrigo v. Alitalia, New York City Civil
Court reported at 2002 N.Y. Slip Opinion 22588, Mr. DArrigo and his
wife had flown to Italy in early September, 2001 and were returning to
Newark on September 11. Their plane was diverted to Milan after the
terrorist attacks and after everyone was loaded off the plane they
were sent on their way, but without any new tickets. They were
finally able to return to the States the next week, but again, no
tickets. Alitalia had all of their names in their computer, and they
loaded up and returned home.
Well, long story short, their baggage was damaged, and they filed a
claim, which Alitalia declined because there was no written notice on
a ticket, and no written statement by the Plaintiff, as required under
the Warsaw Convention.
The New York court found a way to get Mr. and Mrs. DArrigo his money
(it probably didnt hurt that Mr. DArrigo is a retired New York
judge.) Fine, the court said, in the absence of written notice via a
paper ticket showing Warsaw limitations, and in the absence of written
notice by the Plaintiff (Alitalia wrote his complaint into their
computer system therefore there was no written notice) the Warsaw
Convention DOES NOT APPLY. BUT THE NEW YORK LAW OF CONTRACT AND
CONSUMER PROTECTION LAWS DO APPLY, which were, as it turned out, more
generous that the provisions of the Warsaw Convention!
It is very early the law of e-commerce and e-ticketing. Law reviews
are beginning to generate opinions, and the very first cases are just
beginning to come into the courts, but reported cases, like the above,
are essentially non-existent today. As a practitioner of the legal
arts, I would imagine that a good five years will pass before any
solid law is available.
But, as Professor Braugher noted, much of the contract is set forth
in federal regulation, which applies regardless of whether it is a
paper-less ticket. To the extent that some aspect of the conditions
of carriage that an airline may publish in the fine print on the back
of a ticket is not available to the customer, just as Mr. and Mrs.
DArrigo did, they can seek their relief from the state courts.
And if it were up to me, living with the strict limitations placed on
the back of a ticket or taking my chances in state court, Ill see
you in court!
From that perspective, one could argue that there are marginally
better rights in the paper-less tickets, simply because the
limitations may not be as enforceable.
Please, if there is anything that I can elaborate on, please ask!
Thanks for visiting Google Answers.
Search Terms Used:
Lexis case search e-tickets! and paper-less ticket!
Westlaw case search e-tickets! and paper-less ticket!