Canada May Force Airlines to Pay Flyers for Delays, Lost Bags and More

Dec 19, 2018

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Canada is considering regulations that follow in the footsteps of the European Union’s strong consumer protections for airline flyers. On Monday, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) proposed a new passenger bill of rights that would legally require airlines to monetarily compensate passengers subject to lengthy delays, lost baggage, canceled flights and more.

Similar to the EU’s 261 rule, the proposed regulations would be the first time the Canadian government has forced airlines to make amends with the passengers they’ve inconvenienced.

There are a variety of proposals, including a requirement for larger commercial airlines (e.g. Air Canada or WestJet) to provide compensation in case of delays and cancellations. The CBC reports that smaller airlines that serve northern or remote communities won’t be subject to the same rules.

Most impactful to consumers would be the money airlines would have to pay passengers in the case of a delay. Larger airlines would have to pay up to $400 per person if there is a delay of three to six hours, up $700 for delays of six to nine hours and up $1000 for delays of nine or more hours. On top of a cash payout, airlines also have to abide by a set of standards for how they treat passengers during the delay, like providing money for food and clear communications about the status of the flight.

Eligible delays are only ones the airline can control, like staffing issues. Carriers will be exempt from weather related issues, and airlines’ own maintenance problems aren’t subject to the new regulations, either, says Gabor Lukacs of the Air Passenger Rights group. A majority of delays are related to an aircraft’s maintenance, but the CTA says that it doesn’t want airlines skirting maintenance issues in order to avoid paying passengers for delays.

And in the wake of #Bumpgate, the CTA has also suggested rules that would compensate passengers for overbooked flights and other commercial decisions. Passengers would earn $900 if they are up to six hours late, $1,800 for arriving six to nine hours after their initial arrival time and $2,400 for reaching their destination nine+ hours later than scheduled.

Stressed woman in the airport.
Being paid if your flight is significantly delayed could result in a little less stress when traveling to and from Canada. Image by Getty images.

Lost or stolen baggage could result in claims up to $2,100. And similar to what prompted the US Air passenger bill of rights (JetBlue’s 10-hour tarmac delay), carriers must meet certain standards like providing water and functioning restrooms during tarmac delays. If a delay has left the aircraft waiting to takeoff for more than three hours, than it must return to the gate.

The proposed regulations appear quite strong and all encompassing. It also wants to protect family travelers by banning airlines from charging families with young children to sit together.

“I believe it’s the best passenger rights bill in the world,” Canada’s Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said.

What could this mean for US flyers? Unlike EU 261, Canada’s rules will apply to all carriers flying into, out of and within the country. According to Garneau and CBC, international flights traveling into the EU and the US aren’t subject to each country’s air passenger rights laws. So if an American Airlines flight from New York’s LaGuardia to Toronto was delayed for more than three hours, those passengers would be compensated if the delay was within the airline’s control.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch — the CBC reports that the protections are expected to increase the average price of a ticket by $2.75 CAD.

Lukacs criticized the suggested regulations saying they don’t go far enough:

“The proposed regulations give airlines a carte blanche to refuse paying compensation on the basis of unverifiable claims of maintenance issues,” he told the CBC. “This is inconsistent with international standards, and perpetuates a lack of accountability for airlines.”

There’s a two month comment period before the new rules will be voted on by the government’s cabinet. If they are ratified, the CTA expects them to be implemented in summer 2019.

While the US won’t have as strong of protections as either Canada or the EU, US based travelers can use a credit card’s trip delay insurance to protect against lengthy airport delays. For more:

Featured image by Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty Images.
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