Air travel has reached an all-time high. Unfortunately, flight disruptions such as delays, cancellations, and overbooked flights have become the norm for many international air travelers.
All too often, as passengers we feel helpless, like we’re just along for the ride and at the mercy of the airlines. While flight disruptions do happen, imagine when a flight delay causes you to miss a connecting flight, which means you end up missing a once-in-a-lifetime event like a wedding or funeral. You can never get that time or event back.
It doesn’t help matters when you’re turned away from the ticket counter with the scripted impersonal response, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.”
When it happens to you, is there anything you can do?
If you’re traveling in, to, or from the European Union (EU), you may have a right to compensation under European law (up to €600 per passenger). Under EU law, compensation is based on the details and circumstances of your flight, not your citizenship. That means, you can claim compensation even if you are not a European citizen.
But what does that mean for air travelers who are traveling into or within Canada?
Unfortunately, Canada does not have legislation as extensive as Regulation (EC) 261/2004, which creates uniform rules and compensation processes for EU travelers regardless of citizenship.
However, Canadian legislators recently introduced a proposed passenger ‘bill of rights’ (December 2018) that would apply to carriers flying into, out of and across Canada. If passed, it promises to establish uniform rules for all airlines in Canada, allowing passengers to claim compensation unless the problem is due to a “safety related” mechanical issue or is weather-related.
What are the Proposed Air Passenger Rights for Canada?
While the pending legislation promises to expand air passenger rights for Canada significantly, the new legislation falls short of the EU standards.
The new rules will cover seven areas, including: denied boarding, tarmac delays, lost or damaged baggage, seating of children — and most significantly — flight delays and cancellations.
The proposed regulations would provide for clear and more consistent Canadian air passenger rights by imposing minimum requirements for airlines and travelers, including standards of treatment, and in some situations, compensation for passengers. The regulations would set out airlines’ obligations to passengers for:
- Delayed or cancelled flights
- Denied boarding
- Tarmac delays over 3 hours
- Seating of children under the age of 14
- Lost or damaged baggage
- Transportation of musical instruments
The rules apply to airline carriers regardless of size, although it is proposed that different requirements for compensation and rebooking apply to small airlines (due to their unique operating circumstances).
In Canada, the vast majority of flights to, from and within Canada are operated by large airlines (defined as those that transport at least one million passengers in each of the two preceding years).
What about Flight Delays & Cancellations?
Under the proposed legislation, airlines would be required to pay passengers compensation for flight delays or cancellations that are in their control and not related to safety.
Similar to European law, passengers would be entitled to compensation based on the length of delay at arrival:
Passengers would have only 120 days to make a compensation claim with the airline. In turn, the airlines would have 30 days to respond by issuing a payment or telling the passenger why it believes they don’t owe compensation. While airlines would have to offer passengers compensation in monetary form, they can also offer passengers alternative forms of compensation like vouchers or rebates. Passengers would have a right to select which form of compensation they prefer. One thing to note — alternative forms of compensation would need to be of a higher value than the monetary compensation (with no expiration date).
What’s not covered? It could be a lot. Situations outside of the airlines control could include war or political instability; unlawful acts or sabotage; meteorological conditions or natural disasters; instructions from air traffic control; a Notice to Airmen; a security threat; airport operation issues; a medical emergency; a collision with a bird; labour disputes or a special request from police, security or customs official.
What are Your Next Steps?
As with any proposed legislation, the final laws could be quite different. Right now, the proposed regulations are not yet in force. The final regulations may come into force by summer, 2019.
In the meantime, Airline Payback will make every effort to stay up-to-date and understand the legal ramifications to help you file a claim and make sure you’re covered and know where to start.
Air passenger rights in Canada seem complicated— and rightfully so! But the most important thing to remember is that if you are traveling by air, there are specific laws that support air travelers and help you claim compensation when facing flight disruptions.
Flying soon? Protect your rights on a future flight. Just tell us the details for your next flight before you go! We’ll keep track of your flight and alert you if you’re entitled to claim compensation. It’s quick and easy. Fill out the form below.
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