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What You Need to Know About Canada’s Proposed Air-Passenger Rights

By Craig Moy

On December 17, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) outlined new regulations that would compensate air travellers for long delays, bumping and lost luggage. It’s a step toward strengthening the rights of air travellers—something that CAA has long advocated for at the national level. Here’s what you need to know:

WHAT’S BEING PROPOSED?
The federal initiative will set industry-wide standards for passenger treatment, mandate set payouts for long delays, and require airlines to inform travellers in clear, plain language what their rights are. Some of the specific regulations include:

• Compensation of up to $1,000 (for larger airlines) for substantial flight delays or cancellations, plus requirements to provide greater assistance, such as food, drink and accommodations, during such delays.

• Compensation of up to $2,400 for passengers who are denied boarding due to overbooking.

• Compensation of up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage.

Draft regulations were also introduced with the goal of fostering a better and more respectful travel experience for air passengers, including:

• A requirement to seat children near or beside their parents at no additional charge.

• For delays of more than nine hours, an obligation for an airline to use a competing airline to get passengers to their destination.

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• Clear policies for airlines when it comes to transporting musical instruments.

• A requirement that airlines clearly communicate flight delays or cancellations through regular updates by email, text or other methods.

TO WHICH AIRLINES DO THE RULES APPLY?
All carriers flying into, out of and within Canada will be subject to the new rules—which means, essentially, any airline and any flight you’re likely to be on.

Specific to compensation for delays, lost luggage and the like, the CTA says these amounts will apply to larger commercial carriers. Compensation requirements will be lower for small airlines.

SHOULD I BE PLEASED?
“With these draft regulations, Canadian air passengers are finally close to having the same sort of rights that U.S. and European travellers have had for many years,” says Jeff Kasbrick, vice-president of government and stakeholder relations at AMA. “Gone will be the days when passengers stood at a counter, faced with bad news, and had no idea what their rights were or what they could ask for.”

However, there remains room for improvement. The proposed compensation requirements, for example, are waived if a problem is due “mechanical issues.” It’s unclear what constitutes such issues, and, at any rate, they’d be largely unverifiable to the average passenger.

Likewise, it stands to reason that any additional costs to airlines (in the form of compensation requirements) will be passed on to travellers in the form of increased booking costs.

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“The proposed system is not perfect, and we’ll be making that point as we continue to advocate for travellers,” Kasbrick says. “But after three years of talking and consultations, the time to get a package in place is now, so Canadians can be confident that they will be treated more fairly by this summer’s travel season.”

WHAT’S NEXT?
The CTA is accepting emailed comments (sent to consultations@otc-cta.gc.ca) on the proposed regulations until February 20, 2019, and may adjust them based on public feedback. The government intends to have the new rules approved and enacted by July 1, 2019.

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.