Punitive damages are a form of recovery imposed upon a defendant as a punishment beyond compensatory damages.
These kinds of damages can be difficult to recover in aviation cases because the laws that apply oftentimes prohibit them. In particular, both the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions, which govern international flights, declare that airlines are not liable for punitive damages as well as the Death on the High Seas Act, which applies to accidents that happen over open waters.
There are also no punitive damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is a federal law that applies to any litigation against the U.S. government.
On the state level, depending on the state, punitive damages may be recoverable, but there may be limits on them.