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First wave of air passenger protections takes effect across Canada

Last Updated Nov 18, 2019 at 9:23 am PDT


New rules from the Canada Transportation Agency take effect on Jul. 15

Starting Monday, airlines will have to pay up when flights are delayed, passengers are denied boarding, luggage is lost

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s some welcome news if you’re a frequent flier — Canada’s first wave of new air passenger rights comes into effect on Monday.

What that means for travellers is airlines will now have to provide compensation — up to a maximum of $2,400 — to anyone bumped from a flight for situations within an airline’s control.

Changes also mean airlines will have to compensate passengers if their flight is severely delayed, if their luggage is lost, or if flights are overbooked as well — again, as long as the situation is within the company’s control.

The rules from the Canada Transportation Agency now require airlines to meet certain obligations, like provide passengers clear, concise and accessible information about delays, cancellations, and denials of boarding. They will also have to do so in the case of lost or damaged baggage, as well as the seating of children under 14. Airlines are now also required to provide updates on flight status as soon as possible, and then every 30 minutes until a new departure time is set.

The new rules in the government’s long-promised passenger bill of rights will also require airlines to pay up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage. Delays of up to six hours could cost the airline $900 per passenger, when the compensation doubles to $1,800. A passenger could be compensated $2,400 if delayed longer than nine hours.

Related article: Canadian airlines ask appeal court to quash new passenger rights rules

Airlines will have to let passengers off planes if a tarmac delay hits three hours, unless within the next 45 minutes there is an imminent probability that the flight can depart. After the extra time, if the plane is still on the ground, everyone has to get off unless there’s a safety or security reason preventing it.

The issue came to the forefront after a 2017 incident in which two Montreal-bound Air Transat jets were diverted to Ottawa due to bad weather and held on the tarmac for up to six hours, leading some passengers to call 911 for rescue.

According to the new rules, passengers must have access to working lavatories, food and drinks, and the plane must be properly ventilated, heated or cooled during tarmac delays.

The new regulations will apply to all flights within Canada, as well as those to and from the country.

Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc. are among the carriers asking the Federal Court of Appeal to quash the new rules, which they say violate international standards.

Passenger rights advocates say the rules do not go far enough, arguing the criteria for monetary compensation are difficult for passengers to meet as they would have to present evidence that is typically in the hands of an airline.

Related video: Transport Minister calls out airlines for legal action

Formerly, airlines were only allowed to keep passengers aboard on the tarmac for 90 minutes – the new three-hour limit doubles that allowance.

According to Gabor Lukacs, a vocal air passenger rights activist, the new rules provide for no new enforcement mechanisms. He says fines against airlines for breaking existing rules have not, in the past, been collected, and there is no function in the new bill to ensure those fines are enforced.

Compensation of up to $1,000 for delays and other payments for cancelled flights will take effect in December.

More changes starting Dec. 15:

  • A new compensation structure takes effect for any passenger whose flight is delayed or cancelled. Large airlines — those that transport more than two million passengers annually — will have to pay $400 for delays between three and six hours, $700 for delays stretching to nine hours, and $1,000 for delays beyond that. The compensation levels for smaller airlines are $125, $250 and $500.
  • To get the money, passengers will have to file a claim with the airline, which then has 30 days to pay up or explain why it doesn’t think it has to pay.
  • Passengers will get to decide whether to take cash, vouchers or rebates. If a passenger chooses non-cash compensation, the value will have to be higher than the cash offer, and can never expire.
  • Once a delay hits two hours, airlines will have to offer “reasonable quantities” of food and drink and amenities such as free Wi-Fi.
  • Once a delay hits three hours, passengers will have to be booked on the next available flight, or potentially on a competing airline. If rebooking doesn’t meet a passenger’s travel needs — if they no longer need to fly, for instance, because they’ve missed what they were flying for — they can get a refund and an extra $400 from large airlines, and $125 from small carriers.
  • Children under age five will have to be seated next to a parent or guardian at no extra cost. Children five to 11 years old can be separated by no more than one seat in the same row, while 12- and 13-year-olds can’t be separated from guardians by more than one row.