New rules for air passenger refunds
Companies airlines, for their part, argue that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which came into force in 2019, already go too far.
Canada's transportation regulator has strengthened its passenger bill of rights by imposing stricter rules on airline refunds.
L' Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) said Wednesday that the new regulations, which will take effect September 8, will require carriers to refund passengers or rebook them, at the traveler's option, if a flight is canceled or significantly delayed.
Until now, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations only required reimbursements for flight disruptions that were attributable to the airlines, which excluded situations ranging from storms to unforeseen mechanical problems.
These regulations will fill the gap in Canada's air passenger protection regime highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that even in the event of cancellations and prolonged delays attributable to unrelated situations the will of the airline, passengers will be protected if the airline cannot ensure that they complete the planned itinerary within a reasonable time, affirmed the president of the agency, France Pégeot, in a press release.
Thousands of Canadians are grappling with a slew of long flight delays and cancellations these days as airlines and security and customs agencies struggle to manage a staff shortage amid the recent wave of travel, a problem that is expected to continue for much of the next two months. However, the new rules will not protect summer travelers as they will not come into effect until the end of summer.
The regulations will require airlines to offer a rebooking or refund within 30 days if they cannot provide a rebooking within 48 hours of a flight cancellation or long delay.
Any unused portion of the ticket will have to be refunded, including any additional services purchased but not used, the CTA said. And the method of reimbursement must be identical to that of the initial payment. This means that a credit card purchase will not be able to be refunded with cash or a travel voucher, as most Canadian airlines have been doing for nearly a year from March 2020, as the pandemic forced the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of flights.
Despite being tightened, the new rules don't go far enough for some. Gabor Lukacs, chairman of the Travelers Rights Group, called the new framework a sham.
Requiring a refund or rebooking only if the airline can't guarantee another seat on a plane that departs within two days of the original departure time doesn't meet travellers' needs, according to Lukacs.
“Whether you are traveling for a weekend, vacation or business, traveling 48 hours later defeats the purpose of your trip.
—Gabor Lukacs, President of the Travelers Rights Group
Canada is the only western country where airlines can keep passengers' money for canceled flights. The United States, the European Union, Israel and even Turkey have clear rules that when a flight is canceled for any reason, the passenger must be reimbursed, even if the airline airline may offer an alternative a few hours later.
The airlines, for their part, argue that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which came into force in 2019, already go too far.
Canadian carriers oppose new regulations.
Canadian carriers asked a Federal Court of Appeal panel in April to strike down rules that strengthen compensation for passengers whose flights are delayed and whose baggage is damaged. /p>
Air Canada and Porter Airlines along with 16 other appellants, including the International Air Transport Association – IATA has approximately 290 member airlines – claimed that the passenger bill of rights violates global standards and should be invalidated for international flights.
Launched in 2019, the lawsuit argues that the scheme exceeds the powers of the Canadian Transportation Agency. It would also violate the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty, by imposing more onerous compensation requirements in the event of flight cancellation or lost baggage.
Ottawa maintains that there is no conflict between the passenger protection rules and the Montreal Convention.
Under federal rules implemented three years ago, passengers must be compensated up to $2,400 if they were denied boarding because a trip was overbooked and receive up to $2,100 for lost or damaged baggage. Delays and other payments for canceled flights warrant compensation of up to $1,000.
The issue came to the forefront after a 2017 incident in which two Air Transat planes bound for Montreal were diverted to Ottawa due to poor weather conditions and were held on the tarmac for approximately six hours, leading some passengers to call 911 for assistance.
The issue took on new importance for thousands of Canadians beginning in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions travel and border closures have led to mass flight cancellations and grounded airline fleets.