Saturday, 24 August, 2019

Updated air passenger rights protections come into effect Monday

Transport Minister Marc Garneau leaves Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday Transport Minister Marc Garneau leaves Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday
Russell Knight | 16 July, 2019, 16:59

The federal government's Air Passenger Protection Regulations officially took effect Monday morning. Regardless of what happens with the legal case, the airlines have largely avoided the same kind of regime as Europe's, which offers more protections for passengers.

In order to receive compensation, an airline passenger must file a request for compensation with the carrier before the first anniversary of the day on which the flight delay or flight cancellation occurred.

Changes also mean airlines will have to compensate passengers if their flight is severely delayed, if their luggage is lost, or if flights are overbooked as well - again, as long as the situation is within the company's control.

Gabor Lukacs, founder of the advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, has argued that the new regulations still leave Canada well behind the US and Europe in granting power to passengers.

The new rules align roughly with those in the US, but do not match European Union standards that deem most mechanical defects within the airlines' control. Passengers must have access to washrooms, heating or cooling, food and water, and communication with people outside the plane free of charge, "if feasible", the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) said.

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), advocates of the Canadian traveller, encourages passengers to get familiar with the new rules to ensure they are treated fairly.

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Talking point: The IATA unsuccessfully attempted a similar challenge at the European Court of Justice when Europe's air-passenger-rights legislation came into effect in 2005.

The issue came to the forefront after a 2017 incident in which two Montreal-bound Air Transat jets were diverted to Ottawa due to bad weather and held on the tarmac for up to six hours, leading some passengers to call 911 for rescue. Children five to 11 years old can be separated by no more than one seat in the same row, while 12- and 13-year-olds can't be separated from guardians by more than one row.

In matters of dispute, says Garneau, "in the majority of cases, we hope that the airlines will recognize that they have not lived up to their obligations when somebody has purchased a ticket".

However, a Halifax-based air passenger rights advocate believes it could be hard for people to actually collect the cash.

The next wave of rights will include compensation for long delays and cancellations.

As of Monday, airlines must also outline clear rules around carriage of musical instruments. Now they're not so quick to respond to those needs.

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