The first phase of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s (CTA) new rights for air passengers came into effect Monday, meaning air travellers will now be entitled to compensation if they’re bumped from a flight or if their bags are lost or damaged.
What will I get compensation for?
As of July 15, airlines need to pay passengers who are bumped for reasons within the carrier’s control. Overbooking a flight counts as an eligible reason, and so does the airline changing to a smaller plane for commercial reasons or scheduled maintenance. But a plane switch because of a mechanical problem found during a pre-flight check is not considered within the airline’s control.
Airlines also need to compensate passengers whose bags are lost or damaged.
How much money will I get?
The compensation for a bumped passenger depends on how late the new flight arrives at the destination compared with the original plan. Arriving up to six hours late means $900, arriving six to nine hours late means $1,800 and arriving more than nine hours late means $2,400.
For lost or damaged bags, passengers are entitled up to $2,100 based on their filed expense claim, plus a baggage fee refund.
How do I claim compensation?
The CTA says on its website that customers with complaints should first contact their airline.
For damaged bags, passengers need to submit a claim form through their airline within seven days of the incident. For lost bags, the claim needs to be submitted within 21 days.
If the airline doesn’t respond to a complaint within 30 days, passengers can then ask the CTA to step in.
How quickly will I get my money?
Passengers involuntarily bumped from their flights are to receive compensation immediately. For other issues, the airline has 30 days after receiving a complaint to either make a payment or outline why it doesn’t think compensation is owed.
If I’m denied, can I appeal?
If a dispute can’t be resolved between the passenger and the airline, the passenger can make a complaint to the CTA.
The CTA has a complaint web page where passengers can describe what happened and upload supporting documents.
Airlines can be charged up to $25,000 per violation of the new rules.
Passengers can also try to get compensation through their provincial small-claims court, says Gabor Lukacs, founder of the group Air Passenger Rights.
What other rights came into effect on July 15?
There are now universal rules for when passengers are in a plane stuck on the tarmac. They’re allowed to be there for a maximum of three hours before the plane must roll back to the gate to allow passengers to disembark. That time can be extended to three hours and 45 minutes if there’s an imminent possibility of takeoff.
During a tarmac delay, passengers must have access to working washrooms, proper ventilation (including heating and cooling systems) plus food and drink free of charge. Airlines will also need to let passengers communicate with people outside of the aircraft where possible, for example, by providing free Wi-Fi.
There are also new rules around clear communication with passengers, meaning airlines need to provide regular updates when flights are delayed or cancelled. They also need to let passengers know about their rights.
Canadian carriers also need to set clear guidelines for how travellers can transport musical instruments, including any fees involved, size restrictions and whether the instruments can go in the cabin or in the cargo hold.
When do more air passenger rights come into effect?
The full scope of Canada’s new air passenger rights provisions come into effect on Dec. 15. After that, airlines will have to compensate passengers for delays.
Again, this applies only to delay-causing problems that are within the airline’s control. So airlines aren’t on the hook for delays caused by weather, instructions from air traffic control, security threats, medical emergencies or a manufacturing defect in the aircraft.
Large airlines will need to give passengers $400 for a delay of between three and six hours; $700 for a delay of between six and nine hours and $1,000 for delays of more than nine hours. Smaller airlines need to pay $125, $250 and $500 for equivalent delays.
If a delay is expected to extend overnight, airlines need to offer passengers free hotel rooms, plus complimentary transportation to the hotel.
Airlines will also need to make sure children are seated close to the adults they’re travelling with at no extra cost.
Children under five need to be in the seat beside their parent or guardian; children five to 11 need to be in the same row and not separated by more than one seat and 12- and 13-year-olds need to be either in the same row or one away from their parent.
Could these rights be rolled back?
The new rules are currently being challenged in court by the airlines, who say they go too far, and by passenger advocates, who say they don’t go far enough.
Air Canada and Porter Airlines, along with 17 other applicants that include the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – which has some 290 member airlines – state in a court filing that required payments violate international standards and should be rendered invalid.
Mr. Lukacs has said the regulations give airlines “carte blanche to refuse” compensation based on unverifiable maintenance issues.
He’s also challenging the bill of rights in court with disability rights advocate Bob Brown. Among Mr. Lukacs’ complaints are that the three-hour limit for sitting on the tarmac is too long and that the onus on passengers to prove airlines wronged them is too high.
He’d prefer to see Canada adopt air passenger rights similar to the European Union’s, which Mr. Lukacs says make it easier for passengers to receive compensation.
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Clarification: Information on recourse through small-claims courts was added to this piece.