The second half of Canada’s air passenger rights’ bill will be phased in on Sunday (Dec. 15), promising to expand the rights of Canadian travellers with extra compensation and access to amenities in the event of delays, as well as ensuring that airlines take every step possible to seat children with their accompanying adults.
However, at least one airline critic is skeptical of the protections afforded by the new rules - regulations which, according to one national poll, many Canadians are unaware of.
The first part of the bill, originally announced last December by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), was enacted in July, requiring airlines to provide clear communication in the event of delays and disruptions; establishing guidelines for compensation in the event of denied boarding; as well as new rules regarding lost or damaged luggage and the transporting of musical instruments.
What's established under Phase 2?
The second phase of the bill will require airlines flying to, from and within Canada to provide passengers with:
- Airlines compensation of up to $1,000 for flight delays or cancellations for reasons within the airlines' control (except for safety reasons); and
- amenities when there is a flight delay or cancellation within the airline's control (reasonable food and drink; access to communication; and hotel accommodations for overnight delays).
In addition, airlines will have to take steps to seat children under the age of 14 near their accompanying adult, at no extra cost. A child must be seated near their accompanying adult at a proximity that depends on their age:
- under five years, in an adjacent seat;
- Five to 11 years, in the same row, and separated by no more than one seat;
- 12 or 13 years, separated by no more than a row.
Not all agree
Passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs of Air Passenger Rights contends that in regards to traveller compensation, the bill will not be as effective as promised; by narrowly defining the criteria eligible for compensation as “within the airline’s control and for reasons other than maintenance issues,” Lukacs believes that travellers will have fewer chances of receiving money in the even of a delay or cancellation.
In addition, Lukacs says that when it comes to compensation claims, the burden of proof remains on the passenger.
“The CTA will require you, the passenger, to prove that the delay or cancellation was not due to maintenance issues and was not for reasons outside the airline’s control,” Lukacs said in a statement.
Canadians unaware of new air rules: poll
When it comes to awareness of these rules, a recent poll suggests that many Canadians remain in the dark.
According to the Canadian Press, a Leger poll commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association found that just over half of respondents said they hadn't heard or read anything about the rules. The poll of 1,517 respondents was conducted between Nov. 27, and Dec. 4, but can't be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples, the report stated.
Passenger awareness of the rules was also highlighted during a CTA fine against four of Canada’s airlines last fall: in September, four Canadian airlines – Air Canada, Air Transat, Porter and WestJet – faced a combined $45,000 in fines from the Canadian Transportation Agency, which alleged that the airlines failed to properly display information about the recently-enacted air passenger protection regulations at airports across the country.
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