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What You Need to Know Before Booking Your Next Trip

By Allan Britnell

Air travel hasn’t had the smoothest return to normal—for travellers, airlines or airports—with flight cancellations, staffing shortages, long lineups, lost luggage and passengers stuck on the tarmac. AMA has long been an advocate for your rights as a traveller and we have your back. So before you head out on your next trip, here’s what you should know.

Know your rights

Canada’s national Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) came into effect in 2019. “The regulations lay out the ground rules for airlines to provide you with a basic standard of care,” says Nikola Berube, director of sales for AMA Travel. The rules apply to any flight to, from or within Canada.

Among your rights as an air traveller: Being promptly informed and updated about any delays, compensation for being bumped from an overbooked flight, flight crew shortages and compensation up to $2,300 for lost or damaged luggage.

Another notable change is that, in the past, airlines would offer you a credit for cancelled flights—now, airlines must rebook, offer a credit or a full refund, at your discretion. As of Sept. 8, 2022, a significant addition has also been made to passenger rights for delayed flights.

The change “requires airlines to provide passengers with either a refund or rebooking, at the passenger’s choice, when there is a flight cancellation, or a lengthy delay, due to a situation outside the airline’s control,” according to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). In other words, regardless of the reason for the delay, the airline is required to refund you or rebook you at no additional cost.

If you feel your rights have been infringed upon, consider your options. “Contacting the airline is your first step— they may be able to find your bags or offer compensation,” Berube points out. But if you’re not satisfied with the airline’s response, the next step would be to file a complaint with the CTA.

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Room for improvement

“The regulations are a good start, but there’s still room for improvement,” Berube notes. For starters, the CTA should require airlines to publish data about their on-time performance, the number of bags they lose and other information related to delays and cancellations. “That way, we can track their performance and incentivize carriers to improve their service, so they don’t end up on ‘worst of ’ lists.”

Another issue that isn’t addressed in the latest regulations: Airlines don’t have to provide compensation for mechanical problems with the aircraft. “It’s a loophole—and an incentive to classify anything as a ‘mechanical’ issue,” Berube says.

Refresher course

For many of us, it’s been two or more years since we’ve travelled on a plane. It’s easy to overlook something that used to be so familiar. Check your airline’s rules on maximum dimensions for carry-on bags and checked baggage limits. And remember that carry-on liquids must still be in containers 100 mL or less. Look into peak travel times at your departing airport and give yourself plenty of time to check in. For more information about passenger rights and smart flying tips, visit ama.ab.ca/AirPassengers.