Canada’s new airline passenger bill of rights: Protecting travelers or airlines?

Traveling can be stressful at the best of times, and is made worse when there are hiccups in getting to or from a destination. The new airline passenger bill of rights aims to clarify passengers’ rights and entitlements when things go wrong. It improves communication with passengers and gives everyone a clearer sense of what compensation should be given when something goes wrong that’s within the airline’s control. Many of these rules took effect on July 15, 2019, and there’s more to come in December. So how will these rules affect air travel? Only time will reveal, but at least now here’s what you can expect.

New airline passenger bill of rights

Now, the federal government has put in place new laws – airline passenger bill of rights in Canada. Some of these rules covering denied boarding compensation, tarmac delays and compensation for lost or damaged baggage have taken effect since July 15. Others related to delays, cancellations, and rebookings won’t go into effect until December 15.

Overbooked flights

The major thing passengers worry about is the situation where you’ve booked a ticket on a flight, only to be told at the airport that you’ve been bumped because the flight has been oversold. Under the new rules, if a flight is oversold, the airline has to ask for volunteers to be bumped to a later flight. And getting bumped comes with compensation: $900 for a delay of zero to six hours, $1,800 for a delay of six to nine hours, and $2,400 for a delay of longer than nine hours. It’s key to point out that airlines have to put the compensation they offer in writing, which takes a lot of the headache of chasing compensation out of the equation for passengers.

Communication with passengers

This rule calls for better communication of airlines with passengers. If there’s a pre-boarding delay, airlines need to inform passengers and update too every 30 minutes. This is good news for passengers who hate waiting and wondering what’s going on.

New airline passenger bill of rights
New airline passenger bill of rights

Tarmac delays

Delay on the tarmac? Nothing can be more frustrating than being stuck on a plane. Sometimes there’s lack of food, water and functioning washrooms, and to make matters worse – communication with the outside world is limited. Under the new rules, tarmac delays have to be capped at three hours, or three hours and forty-five minutes in the event that it is likely that takeoff will happen within that additional forty-five minutes. After this point, the plane has to return to the gate and let passengers off. The rules also say that the conditions on the airplane have to include enough food and water, ventilation (heating/cooling), working washrooms and the ability to communicate if feasible, such as by providing free Wi-Fi.

Compensation

Come December, a compensation scheme kick in for delays and cancelled flights. Compensation will be up to $1,000 for major airlines or $500 for smaller airlines and will depend on the length of the delay. Also, lost bags on domestic flights will be compensated up to $2,100. Earlier, this used to be available only for lost bags on international flights.

Though many have welcomed the new airline passenger bill of rights with open arms, some think that the new rules don’t go far enough. They do clarify the type of treatment passengers can expect in the given situations, but generally, compensation is limited to circumstances that are within an airline’s control. In other words, if you’re delayed or your flight’s been cancelled because of bad weather, the airline should not be responsible for compensation. Some may wonder how easy or difficult it will be for an airline to claim that a delay isn’t within its control, while others in the airline industry are also challenging these new rules, saying that they violate international standards, and ultimately a judge will have to decide whether that’s the case.

 

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