Postcard from Interlaken

Ted is on vacation in Europe, and sends the following:

So Slim and I went paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland, today. As the van takes a group of five customers up to the top of the hill, the leader explains that we’ll each get to pick our tandem pilot.

I consulted my inner economist. “I want the one with the gray hair,” I said.

The pilot, Robi, gave me a form. “Regulations. Just like any air flight, we need to have the name and destination recorded. The liability is just like Continental Airlines,” handing me a ticket to sign. I read the back, expressly disclaiming that Air Transport laws applied, and stating maximum liability would be 72,500 francs. And since it’s Switzerland, the law of contract is probably respected, so that’s a real waiver. Fair enough — if I do not fly, so much as plummet, my ability to recover in civil court is perhaps the last thing on my mind. My pilot has plenty of economic incentive to land safely such that civil liability does not add much at the margin. And Coase teaches us that the limited liability permits the price to be as low as it is. I accept the benefit of the bargain, and assume good faith that the professional paraglider is just unfamiliar with the nature of the forms rather than trying to snow me.

The fact that I’m writing suggested that I survived. But I’m pretty confident that one is not supposed to bounce on the side of the hill during takeoff. (Slim, whose launch was after mine, reports that one of the other pilots crossed himself at the time.) And, hey, fun.


  • “…if I do not fly, so much as plummet…”

    I’m glad to see you’re familiar with the classics.

  • In my country, inner economists end the conversation at “paragliding” and do not entertain discussion of the wording of the waiver.

  • “…the leader explains that we’ll each get to pick our tandem pilot.”

    A friend of mine did the paragliding thing in Brazil.

    He reported that the pilots choose their passengers.

    If the pilots don’t like the look of you, you don’t fly.

    No mention of signing a waiver, either.