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Passengers being 'short changed', advocate says, ahead of second phase of air passenger protections

Last Updated Dec 13, 2019 at 3:02 pm PST

Summary

Advocate for air passenger rights says new rules to protect travellers in Canada don't go far enough

Calling the rules 'sub-standard,' Gabor Lukacs believes in most common cases, passengers will see no compensation

The second phase of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights will take effect on Sunday

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The next time many Canadian take to the sky, they’ll be armed with more rights, but one air passenger advocate says the new rules may not do people much good.

The second and final set of passenger-rights rules take effect Sunday, and will require airlines to seat parents beside or near their children at no extra fee, as well as compensate travellers for delays and cancellations which are within an airline’s control.

While the rules are aimed at protecting flyers caught in travel nightmares, an advocate says passengers are being shortchanged.

“I would really love to hear Minister Garneau explain to the public in what situation passengers will get any compensation,” Gabor Lukacs with Air Passenger Rights says. “It strikes me as a big, hollow nothing.”

If flights are delayed or cancelled because of an issue that is within the airline’s control, passengers could receive up to $1,000 in compensation. However, that doesn’t include weather-related problems, unexpected mechanical issues, or medical emergencies.

Lukacs argues the most common situations won’t qualify under the new set of rules, which are supposed to set out minimum standards for all carriers to follow and requirements to help the travelling public understand their rights.

“In Canada, the problem is that, as a passenger, you have no way of knowing whether the airline is actually telling the truth, and even if you have some suspicions, you have no way of proving the airline is lying,” he adds.

Calling the rules “sub-standard,” Lukacs believes in most common cases, passengers will see no compensation.

“In order for the public to understand how the government is pulling the wool over their eyes, we need to compare these Canadian rules with the European gold standard. In Europe, if a flight is delayed or cancelled due to maintenance issues, the airline is on the hook. They have to pay compensation.”

He says the only way airlines in Europe can avoid compensating a passenger is if the delay or cancellation is under what is called an “extraordinary circumstance.”

“Something that is entirely outside a normal operation of an airline, and then it is the airline and not the passenger who has to prove that,” Lukacs explains.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the second phase of the Air Passenger Bill of Rights on Friday.

“Air travellers will now have full rights when things don’t go as expected,” Garneau told reporters.

This comes months after the first phase was introduced and took effect in mid-July. The rules required airlines to compensate and respond to tarmac delays, denied boardings and lost or damaged luggage.

Meanwhile, a recent poll suggested just more than half of Canadians said they either hadn’t heard or read anything about the air-passenger rights rules.

-With files from The Canadian Press