Canada Transport Minister Marc Garneau has unveiled sweeping new air travel reforms aimed at protecting passengers’ rights. The new consumer protections covering everything from lost bags to overbooked flights are set to go into effect this summer with additional rules expected to be in place in time for the busy Christmas travel season.
After a year in the making, the final version of Canada’s generous new passenger protections was revealed this week. Transport Minister Marc Garneau indicated the new “Passenger Bill of Rights” will make Canadian air travelers the envy of passengers around the globe.
“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,” Garneau said in a statement announcing the new policies. “After a long and thorough consultation process, I am proud to say these new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travelers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve.”
Under the new rules, which will take effect in July, airlines operating in Canada will be required to provide standardized rates of compensation to passengers in certain circumstances – even if those customers do not make a formal complaint or request restitution. The new “Air Passenger Protection Regulations” package developed by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) will require carriers to pay flyers as much as $2,400 if they are involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight. If an airline should lose or seriously damage a flyer’s checked luggage, the flyer will soon be eligible for up to $2,100.
The regulations also prescribe strict new procedures governing tarmac delays. Passengers will have the right to leave the aircraft if the delay lasts longer than three hours (the rules allow an exception to be made in a case in which takeoff is “imminent”). Airlines will be required to certify the condition of washrooms, the quality of cabin air, climate control conditions and availability of food and water in cases in which tarmac delays last longer than three hours. Any infractions can earn fines of $25,000 per incident.
While the new rules governing overbooked flights, lost bags and lengthy tarmac delays will be in effect beginning in mid-July, additional protections, including consumer protections in the event of delayed or canceled flights will be in place by mid-December. Airlines will then be required to provide compensation as much as $1,000 for flight delays or cancellations within an airline’s control, but not considered a matter of flight safety. After a delay of nine hours or more, passengers will be permitted to request a seat on a competing carrier in order to get to their destinations in a timely fashion.
Although the protections for air travelers traveling to and from Canadian airports are unprecedented, consumer advocates are not entirely convinced. In some cases, the final rules are somewhat watered down from earlier drafts of the policy released to the public earlier. Lobbying from the airline industry is blamed for the weakening of some measures.
“I think it’s great that Canada now has a unified set of air passenger rights, instead of a setup where it was airline by airline and you had to read the certificate of every airline to understand your rights,” air traveler protection firm, AirHelp, spokesperson Christian Nielsen told CTV News. “But it seems that the Canadian Transportation Agency has listened a bit too much to the airlines. Almost everything seems to be ‘without (outside) the airlines’ control, meaning that the passenger will have lesser rights in those circumstances.”
[Image Source: Shutterstock]