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Ask the Expert: Canada’s Air-Passenger Rights

By AMA STAFF

Even the best-planned vacations can face unexpected hiccups.

Your suitcase may be accidentally rerouted to a different destination, or your flight might be delayed or cancelled. Canadian travellers will soon receive enhanced protections and compensation for lost luggage, overbooking and substantial flight delays, under new rules developed by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).

Many of these will be implemented July 15, including compensation up to $2,400 for bumping; compensation for lost or damaged baggage; plus airlines will be required to provide clear information on all communications, including tickets, about passenger rights and how to claim them.

The rest of the rights package, however, will come into effect Dec. 15, including two of the most important aspects: compensation for delays and cancellations; and requiring airlines to seat children near their parents at no extra charge.

We asked Michelle Chimko, AMA’s chief operating officer, about the pending new air-passenger rights.

Why is this legislation needed?
Air passengers deserve peace of mind when they’re travelling. But the protections that exist today are hard to locate and understand—and even more difficult to access if you actually need them. The U.S. and European Union each has its own set of passenger rights; the CTA’s new protections aim to create a made-in-Canada solution that sets minimum standards of protection for today’s most common air travel issues.

What are some of the proposed protections?
They address cases of denied boarding due to overbooking, delayed or cancelled flights, long tarmac delays, lost or damaged bags, and extra charges to sit next to your minor child. Each protection comes with a clear minimum standard of treatment and, in many cases, compensation. If a carrier fails to comply with the regulatory requirements, passengers will be able to seek redress through the CTA.

What about compensation?
Currently, compensation amounts and processes for redress vary by airline—and that’s the problem. The method of compensation isn’t spelled out either; a travel voucher with an expiry date could be issued. AMA has advocated that passengers always be entitled to any compensation in cash or an equivalent form if agreed by the passenger. Under the proposed regulations, air travellers would be eligible for up to $2,400 if they’re bumped from an overbooked flight, up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage, and up to $1,000 for substantial flight delays or cancellations. During delays, airlines will be required to provide assistance such as food, drink and accommodations.

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How were the proposals drafted?
For several years, AMA and CAA have been the leading consumer advocates for better passenger protections. Last fall, the CTA drafted its regulations with input from travellers, consumer rights’ groups including CAA, the airline industry and other interested parties.

Are there exemptions?
Mechanical and safety issues that affect the flight are excluded, as are “acts of God” like medical emergencies, security issues or bad weather. We still have more work to do in advocating for consumer protections—and we won’t let up—but these proposals are a step in the right direction.

What else can passengers do to protect themselves?
Leave yourself extra time and arrive early at the airport. Of course, not all flight delays can be predicted by the weather report, so make sure you’re covered with AMA’s trip cancellation and interruption insurance. If you need to cancel your trip or come home early, it’ll cover the cost of your missed days, plus expenses associated with returning early.

WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
Regardless of any federal regulations, it’s always a good idea to be proactive in protecting your travel investment. Trip cancellation and interruption/delay insurance from AMA Travel provides coverage for more than 30 possible scenarios that might otherwise ruin your best-laid vacation plans.