Last December, the Government of Canada announced that it would undertake major steps to provide Canadians with new air passenger protection rights.
In May, the government announced that the new rules, part of the Canadian Transportation Agency's (CTA) Air Passenger Protection Regulations, would come into effect this July, and would be rolled out in two stages.
Major issues to be addressed included compensation for overbooked flights, as well as tarmac delays, which keep passengers stranded for lengthy amounts of time.
Under the propositions, the compensation plan would use a sliding scale with larger airlines and longer delays requiring bigger compensation payments. As it turns out, not everyone agrees with these propositions. According to the Canadian Press, Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc., 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 under the country's new air passenger bill of rights violates international standards and should be rendered invalid.
Air passenger rights advocate, Gabor Lucaks, told PAX the new rules aren't consumer-friendly at all, and don't do enough for passengers who may be victims of lost or damaged luggage, overbooked flights, or tarmac delays.
"The new rules make things worse for travellers, they are airline-friendly, written by the airlines, for the airlines, and then rubber-stamped by the government," Lucaks told PAX. "For example, the new rules allow airlines to keep passengers on the tarmac for up to three hours and 45 minutes instead of 90 minutes, which had been the Canadian industry standard since 2008."
Porter Airlines, listed as one of 17 applicants in the court application, told PAX the company agrees with the broad objectives of the regulations to ensure that passengers are well-treated throughout their experience, but already meets or exceeds the standards set out through the regulations in many areas.
"Porter is supporting the court application primarily because we believe aspects of the regulations are inconsistent with established treaty obligations for international travel," Brad Cicero, director, communications and public affairs, Porter Airlines, told PAX.
Air Transat also weighed in.
"Transat is aware of the lawsuits filed by IATA, A4A and various Canadian, US and international air carriers in their own name with respect to the compatibility of certain provisions of the APPR with international and domestic law," Odette Trottier, director of communications and corporate affairs, Transat. "We have no comment concerning the substantive issues raised, however, we will follow the proceedings before the courts with interest in this respect.
In the meantime, we remain focused on working to ensure a seamless and problem-free application of the new regulations as of July 15 and to continue providing the best customer experience possible through our internationally-recognized and award-winning service."
Playing by the rules
Effective July 15, 2019, airlines will have to:
- communicate to passengers in a simple, clear way information on their rights and recourses and regular updates in the event of flight delays and cancellations;
- provide compensation of up to $2,400 for bumping a passenger for reasons within their control;
- ensure passengers receive standards of treatment during all tarmac delays and allow them to leave the airplane, when it's safe to do so, if a tarmac delay lasts for over three hours and there's no prospect of an imminent take-off;
- provide compensation for lost or damaged baggage of up to $2,100 and a refund of any baggage fees; and
- set clear policies for transporting musical instruments.
Another set of rules comes into effect on Dec. 15, 2019:
- provide compensation of up to $1,000 for flight delays and cancellations within an airline's control that are not safety-related;
- rebook or refund passengers when flights are delayed, including, in some cases, using a competing airline to get passengers to their destination;
- provide food, drink and accommodation when passengers' flights are delayed; and
- facilitate the seating of children under 14 years in close proximity to an accompanying adult, at no extra charge.
The Canadian Press reports that IATA was the one to initiate a court document.
"The airlines' challenge is a publicity stunt," Lucaks argued. "Procedurally, their challenge appears to be flawed. Substantively, the airlines are trying to reargue what they have already lost before the European Court of Justice. The whole argument of conflict with the Montreal Convention was hashed out and rejected there."
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