Airline passengers in Canada will soon be entitled to compensation, under new rules being introduced by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). This follows in the footsteps of the EU in forcing airlines to pay passengers for overbooking, flight delays and lost luggage.
Travellers who are bumped from flights due to overbooking, or have had to sit around the airport for hours due to delays will now be entitled to monetary compensation.
Canadian Passenger Bill of Rights
Having been debated about for several months, the Canadian government is now ready to roll out its passenger bill of rights just in time for the summer travel season. The new regulations announced on Friday will be implemented in two stages.
Some of the new rules will be law by July 15th, while others will not come into effect until the middle of December. Transport Minister Marc Garneau is reported by CBC News to have said,
“Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive. After a long and thorough consultation process, I am proud to say these new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travellers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve,”
The new regulation will cover all flights to and from Canada as well as internal domestic flights. Big airlines that have carried more than two million passengers in the last two years will suffer hefty fines, whereas the penalties for smaller carriers are less severe. These small airlines will pay less compensation for delays or cancellations that are within the airline’s control, but are not related to safety issues.
Broadly speaking, any disruptions of flights due to delays on the tarmac, flight cancellations or the bumping of passengers are considered to be within the control of the airline, and will require that passengers are compensated. Disruptions due to safety issues will not require the airline to pay compensation, but will require them to complete a passenger’s itinerary.
Other situations where the airline does not have to pay compensation are delayed or cancelled flights due to political instability, security threats, weather and natural disasters.
What are the rules that come in place by July 15th, 2019?
The first set of rules outline the regulations and the airline’s responsibility to its passengers being bumped from a flight, delays on the tarmac and lost or damaged luggage. They also stipulate that, during any delay, passengers will have access to working toilets.
Airlines must also ensure that the aircraft is either air-conditioned or heated, depending on the season. Passengers must be supplied with food and drink and be given the ability to communicate with persons outside the aircraft free of charge.
Any plane that has been delayed on the tarmac for more than three hours will be required to return to the gate and let the passengers disembark. The only exception to this rule is if the plane has a take-off time slot within 45 minutes after the three hours have passed.
Any passenger who is bumped from a flight due to overbooking is entitled to financial compensation at a variable rate. The penalty depends on how long it takes the airline to get them to their final destination.
Delays of less than six hours require a minimum payment of $900. Delays of between six and nine hours $1,800 and delays longer than nine hours $2,400.
When it comes to lost and damaged bags, airlines will be required to pay a minimum of $2,100 per item of luggage.
Phase two starting December 15th, 2019
Starting December 15th 2019 airlines will have to pay compensation for cancellations and flight delays at an amount that depends on the airline’s size.
Large airlines will pay $400 for a delay of between three and six hours, with smaller airlines only required to pay $125 in compensation. Delays of between six and nine hours will result in compensation of $700 and $250 respectively. Delays longer than nine hours will require a payment of $1,000 from big airlines and $500 from small airlines.
If an airline cannot rebook a passenger in the same class of service they purchase and the delay is longer than nine hours, the airline is required to book the passenger on a competing airline.
Airlines will also have to ensure that children five years old or younger are seated next to a parent or guardian. Children aged between five and 11 must be seated in the same row as the adult accompanying them, while children 12 and 13 cannot be seated more than a single row away.
Any airline that does not comply with these new set of rules will be subject to a $25,000 fine, levied on them by the Canadian Transport Agency.
“Thousands of Canadians participated in the consultations that helped shape these new rules. We’re grateful for their input and confident that these ground-breaking regulations will help ensure passengers are treated fairly if their air travel doesn’t go smoothly,” Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, said in a statement.
What do you think about Canada’s new rules?
Compared to the EU 261 regulation on passenger rights, the one big difference we see is that airlines do not have to pay if flights are delayed for mechanical reasons that are a safety issue.
This is something that needs to be followed up on to ensure that airlines don’t play the safety card when the flight is delayed for some other reason.
We do, however, like the fact that smaller airlines are not hammered like the bigger flag carriers, and cannot help wondering if the United States will ever come up with a similar passenger bill of rights.