Amid travel chaos, regulator reveals new rules on passenger rights to fill “gap”

Written by Javed Iqbal

Canada’s Department of Transportation aims to strengthen its charter of passenger rights by placing stricter rules on airline reimbursement – although some proponents say the rules do not meet the requirements of other countries.

New rules with effect from Sept. 8 will require airlines to either refund passengers or rebook them, at the choice of the traveler, if a flight is canceled or delayed by three hours or more, the Canadian Transportation Agency said Wednesday.

Previously, passenger rights only required reimbursement for flight interruptions that were within the airline’s control, excluding situations ranging from weather to war to unplanned mechanical problems.

“These rules will close the loophole in the Canadian air passenger protection regime highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that even when cancellations and long delays occur that are beyond the airline’s control, passengers will be protected if the airline is unable to comply. their itinerary within a reasonable time, “said bureau president France Pégeot in a statement.

The rules match policies implemented by Air Canada in 2021, said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

Thousands of Canadians have faced a series of long delays and flight cancellations as airlines and security and customs authorities struggle to deal with a shortage of staff in the midst of the recent rise in travel. The problem is expected to leave summer travelers without protection from the new rules, which will not come into force until the autumn.

The rules will require airlines to offer a rebooking or refund within 30 days if they are unable to deliver a new reservation within 48 hours of a flight cancellation or three hour delay.

Every unused portion of a ticket must be covered, including “any unused add-on service paid for,” the regulator said. And a refund must be the same as the original payment method. This means that a credit card purchase could not be refunded with a travel voucher, as most Canadian airlines did for almost a year, starting in March 2020, amid hundreds of thousands of cancellations due to the pandemic.

Ian Jack, a spokesman for consumer rights at the Canadian Automobile Association, called the revised charter “a very good but limited advance” in passenger protection because even though airlines will be forced to pay reimbursement, they can still avoid paying compensation on between $ 400 and $ 1,000. factors beyond their control.

“There’s an incentive here for carriers to declare mechanical problems. As a passenger, it’s very difficult for you ever to confirm that,” Jack said.

His spokesman calls on Ottawa to mandate airlines to release data on delays and cancellations made by the United States in order to encourage competition and expose any disproportionate figures.

Gabor Lukacs, chairman of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, called the new framework a “hoax.”

He said that orders for reimbursement or rebooking only if the airline can not secure another seat on a flight departing within two days of the original departure time do not meet the needs of travelers in situations ranging from weekend visits to short business trips.

“For a Friday flight, if the flight is canceled, the airline will be able to offer the passenger a departure for Sunday, which the passenger will never be able to take because they work on Mondays. And the airline can still shell out,” Lukacs said in an interview.

“We live in a world at a very high pace. A few hours delay means you do not come to a funeral, a wedding, a court hearing.”

The European Union requires airlines to provide an airline seat within five hours of the first departure – not 48 – otherwise a refund must be offered.

In the EU and the US, passengers must also be reimbursed for a flight cancellation within seven days rather than 30 days under Canada’s new scheme.

The CTA acknowledged that the change was not in line with EU or US requirements, but said it took into account the realities of Canadian airlines.

“(They) may be required to provide multiple reimbursements at once due to weather-related disruptions,” the agency states in its analysis of the impact of the rules.

Airlines claim that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which came into force in 2019, are already going too far.

Canadian airlines asked a Federal Court of Appeal panel in April to repeal rules that strengthen compensation for passengers exposed to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc. along with 16 other appellants said the Charter of Passenger Rights violates global standards and should be invalidated for international flights.

Under the three-year-old federal rules, passengers must be compensated up to $ 2,400 if they were denied boarding – so-called flight bumping – because a trip was overbooked, and receive up to $ 2,100 for lost or damaged luggage. Delays and other payments for canceled flights entitle to compensation of up to $ 1,000.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 22, 2022.

Companies in this history: (TSX: AC)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

About the author

Javed Iqbal

Leave a Comment