Sunday,  August 18, 2019  10:25 pm

What agents & their clients need to know about Canada's new air passenger rights


What agents & their clients need to know about Canada's new air passenger rights
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

This article has been updated as of 11:00 a.m. EST.

The first phase of Canada's new air passenger rights come into effect today, July 15, 2019.

The Canadian Transportation Agency's (CTA) Air Passenger Protection Regulations will be rolled out in two stages. Phase one, which comes into effect today, covers communication, tarmac delays, denied boarding, lost and damaged luggage, and transporting musical instruments.

However, not every airline is confident that the new rules are playing fair. On a similar note, some feel as though these new rules don't benefit the consumer at all, but instead, work to protect airlines against liability.

Not everyone agrees

On July 8, 2019, the Canadian Press reported that Air Canada and Porter Airlines, along with 17 other applicants which included the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has some 290 member airlines, stated 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. 

In a previous interview with PAX, Porter responded, stating that the company "already meets or exceeds the standards set out through the regulations in many areas." As a result, Porter Airlines supports the court claim because it feels the new air passenger rights and their respective regulations are inconsistent with established treaty obligations for international travel.

Gabor Lukacs of the advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, released a statement today in which he argues that the new air passenger protection regulations might seem generous, but that airlines still have systems in place to protect themselves. 

One of the most significant adjustments to the rules, Lukacs reiterates, is that airlines can now keep passengers on the tarmac for longer periods than previous rules allowed.

"Under the 2008 Code of Conduct of Canada’s Airlines, the airline could keep you in an aircraft on the tarmac for up to 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, the airline had to let you disembark. The Code was incorporated into Canadian airlines’ terms and conditions (tariff), and was legally binding," Lukacs wrote in a statement. "Under the new rules, airlines can keep you on the tarmac for up to 225 minutes (three hours and 45 minutes). This is more than double the 90-minute limit that was also endorsed by the Senate. The new rule establishes three hours (180 minutes) as the new limit, and allows the airline to keep you confined to the aircraft for another 45 minutes if take-off is imminent."

What's changed?

As of today, airlines will have to abide by the following rules:

  • 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.

Air Canada has already created a page on its website, detailing how those wishing to bring musical instruments on board can proceed. Under its "Baggage-weight dimensions" tab on its website, Air Transat has also detailed how to safely store musical instruments; travellers simply need to select the "carry-on" or "checked bag" tab to view requirements.

Sunwing clearly states that additional fees will be required to transport musical instruments, if the combined weight exceeds the allowance for your checked or carry-on bag.

In addition, WestJet has created a brand new section which checks off all the boxes: travelling with musical instruments; lost, delayed, or damaged baggage; denied boarding; and tarmac delays.

"We continue to work closely with the Canadian Transportation Agency to implement the Air Passenger Protection Regulations for Phase One," Morgan Bell, advisor, media and public relations, WestJet, told PAX.

Air Transat has also reiterated that its website has been updated to include essential travel information for passengers to ensure they're aware of their rights.

"We encourage our customers to download our mobile app that provides regular updates on flights," Odette Trottier, director of communications and corporate affairs, Transat, told PAX. "Updated information will also be given to passengers at the airport. We have already put in place a communication and tarmac delay management program."


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