Air France v. Gillego (G.R. No. 165266; December 15, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: AIR FRANCE v. BONIFACIO H. GILLEGO (G.R. No. 165266; December 15, 2010)

FACTS: Gillego, then incumbent Congressman and Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, was invited to participate as one of the keynote speakers at the 89th Inter-Parliamentary Conference Symposium on Parliament Guardian of Human Rights to be held in Budapest, Hungary and Tokyo, Japan.

On May 16, 1993, Gillego left Manila on board Air Frances aircraft bound for Paris, France. While waiting at the Airport for his connecting flight to Budapest scheduled a few hours after his arrival learned that Air France had another aircraft bound for Budapest with an earlier departure time than his scheduled flight. He then made arrangements for the change in his booking. He was given a corresponding ticket and boarding pass and also a new baggage claim stub for his checked-in luggage. However, his baggage despite numerous follow-up was never delivered to him prompting Gillego to purchase new set of clothes and other personal effects.

Gillego filed a complaint for damages against the Air France alleging that by reason of its negligence and breach of obligation to transport and deliver his luggage, Gillego suffered inconvenience, serious anxiety, physical suffering and sleepless nights. It was further alleged that due to the physical, mental and emotional strain resulting from the loss of his luggage, aggravated by the fact that he failed to take his regular medication, Gillego had to be taken to a medical clinic in Tokyo, Japan for emergency treatment.

The RTC found there was gross negligence on the part of Air France. It likewise found Air France guilty of willful misconduct as it persistently disregarded the rights of Gillego. As to the applicability of the limited liability for lost baggage under the Warsaw Convention, the trial court rejected the argument of Air France. The CA affirmed the trial courts decision.


I. Was there legal and factual basis that Air France's actions were attended by gross negligence, bad faith and willful misconduct and that it acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner to justify award of moral and exemplary damages?

II. Is the amount of damages awarded by the RTC and affirmed by the CA as moral and exemplary damages excessive, unconscionable and unreasonable?HELD: I. In an action based on a breach of contract of carriage, the aggrieved party does not have to prove that the common carrier was at fault or was negligent. All that he has to prove is the existence of the contract and the fact of its non-performance by the carrier.

The action filed by the respondent is founded on such breach of the contract of carriage with petitioner who offered no satisfactory explanation for the unreasonable delay in the delivery of respondents baggage. The presumption of negligence was not overcome by the petitioner and hence its liability for the delay was sufficiently established.

The Court held that the trial and appellate courts did not err in finding that petitioner acted in bad faith in repeatedly ignoring respondents follow-up calls. Clearly, Air France did not give the attention and care due to its passenger whose baggage was not transported and delivered to him at his travel destination and scheduled time; inattention to and lack of care for the interest of its passengers who are entitled to its utmost consideration, particularly as to their convenience, amount to bad faith which entitles the passenger to an award of moral damages.

HELD: II. The amount of damages must be fair, reasonable and proportionate to the injury suffered. The purpose of awarding moral damages is to enable the injured party to obtain means, diversion or amusement that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering he has undergone by reason of defendant's culpable action. On the other hand, the aim of awarding exemplary damages is to deter serious wrongdoings. Hence, the Court held that the sum of P1,000,000.00 awarded by the trial court is excessive and not proportionate to the loss or suffering inflicted on the passenger under the circumstances.