New rules governing how airlines treat passengers whose flights have been cancelled or delayed go into effect Sunday.
The regulations, which also cover people travelling with children, are the second phase of a new list of passenger rights intended to improve the experience of air travel, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said at Ottawa’s airport on Friday.
As of Dec. 15, passengers whose flights have been delayed for reasons within an airline’s control are entitled to compensation of as much as $1,000, as well as food, drinks and accommodation for overnight stays. A passenger whose flight has been cancelled or delayed by three hours must be rebooked on the next available flight.
Children aged four and younger must be seated – at no extra charge – next to a parent or caregiver. Children five to 11 years of age can be seated in the same row, not more than one seat apart. Twelve- and 13-year-olds can be no more than one row away.
The first phase of the regulations, in effect as of July 15, 2019, requires airlines to pay as much as $2,400 to a passenger bumped from a flight for reasons within the airline’s control; provide compensation of as much as $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage; and allow passengers to leave a plane that is delayed on the tarmac for more than three hours if there is no chance of an imminent departure.
Airlines face fines of as much as $25,000 for not following the rules.
The rules cover flights beginning or ending in Canada and apply to domestic and international airlines.
“Air travel is an essential part of modern life. Nowhere is this more true than a vast country like Canada,” said Scott Streiner, head of the Canadian Transportation Agency, the independent regulator. “Most of the time flights go smoothly, but sometimes they don’t.
“The number of passenger complaints has been rising and will exceed 10,000 in 2019,” Mr. Streiner told reporters at the airport.
Mr. Streiner said the implementation of the first phase went “remarkably smoothly.” He said he was “satisfied” by the efforts of most airlines to comply but noted that his agency laid several fines against airlines that failed to display signs advising passengers of the regulations.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) – an industry group – Air Canada, Porter Airlines and several foreign carriers are appealing the law. The airlines say Canada has no authority to impose the rules on foreign carriers and argue that the regulations provide compensation that exceeds passengers’ actual losses, contrary to the rules that airlines follow. No date has been set to hear the case in the Federal Court of Appeal.
“The application asks for parts of the air passenger protection regulations to be declared invalid because they conflict with Canada’s obligations under international law and principles of statutory interpretation,” said Mona Aubin, a spokeswoman for IATA. “This case has not been before the court yet. Until it does, airlines will abide by the law.”
Brad Cicero, of Porter Airlines, said larger airlines face bigger fines, which creates “different tiers of treatment for passengers and rules for competing airlines.”
WestJet Airlines is not part of the appeal and said Friday that it has updated its compensation policies in line with the new regulations. “We continue to work alongside all parties to achieve our shared objective of ensuring implementation and adherence to the new rules,” said Morgan Bell, a WestJet spokeswoman.
Air Canada referred a question about its court appeal to the IATA. “It is our policy to obey the regulations of the jurisdictions where we operate, and this naturally includes the new federal regulations,” Air Canada said in an e-mail.
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