A passenger waits beside their luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. Starting today, airline passengers can receive up to $2,400 if they’e bumped from a flight, part of a slew of air traveller protections beefing up compensation for travellers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he was “surprised” and “disappointed” by legal action from Canadian airlines to quash new rules to beef up compensation for passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

“We feel that we have done our homework very, very carefully in consultation with the airlines and with other stakeholders,” Garneau told reporters Monday, when the first phase of long-promised air travel regulations took effect.

“We feel that the passenger rights that we’ve put in place are going to stand up and that they’re very fair to both passengers and to the airlines.”

Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc., along with 17 other applicants that include the International Air Transport Association — which counts WestJet Airlines Ltd. among its 290-odd member airlines — state in a court filing that mandatory compensation under the passenger bill of rights violates international standards and should be rendered invalid.

READ MORE: Airline passengers to get cash for lost baggage, overbooking in new bill of rights

The June 28 court application argues that the passenger bill of rights contravenes the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty, by setting compensation amounts based on the length of the flight delay and “irrespective of the actual damage suffered.”

Consumer advocates, however, say the rules do not go far enough, arguing that airlines’ exemption from compensating customers in situations “outside of the airline’s control” uses too broad a definition and amounts to a loophole.

A second batch of rules, set to roll out in December, imposes no obligation on airlines to pay customers for delays or cancellations if they were caused by mechanical problems discovered in a pre-flight check — walking around the aircraft before takeoff looking for defects — rather than during scheduled maintenance — more thorough inspections required after 100 hours cumulatively in the air.

“Airlines understandably cannot be held responsible for acts of sabotage or medical emergencies, yet there are other circumstances listed as outside of carriers’ control in the air passenger protection regulations that raise serious questions, such as labour disruptions and manufacturing defects in an aircraft,” said advocacy group Flight Claim Canada in a release.

“The list is also non-exhaustive — a gap that airlines will use to their advantage to the detriment of air passengers.”

Garneau insisted terms are clearly defined, and reiterated that delays or cancellations following a pre-flight check do not, in his view, warrant, compensation.

“We believe that we’ve made it very clear what is within the airline’s control and what is not within the airline’s control,” he said.

The new rules align roughly with those in the U.S., but do not match European Union standards that deem most mechanical defects within the airlines’ control.

The first phase of regulations that came into force Monday require prompt updates and clear communication with passengers about their rights if their flight is delayed or cancelled.

Travellers can receive up to $2,400 if bumped from a flight and up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage.

In the event of a tarmac delay, aircraft must return to the gate after three hours. An extra 45 minutes is allowed if takeoff is likely.

During a tarmac delay, Passengers also must have access to washrooms, food and water, heating or cooling, and communication with people outside the plane free of charge, “if feasible,” the Canadian Transportation Agency said.

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.

Compensation of up to $1,000 for delays of nine hours or more will take effect in December.

READ MORE: Canadian airlines ask court to reject new passenger rights rules

On Monday, Garneau defended the postponement — pushed for by airlines — by pointing to the now four-month grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, after he said as recently as April the regulations would come down simultaneously in July.

“That has affected several airlines in Canada, and we recognize that that has put an additional burden on them in terms of their reservation systems and their operations,” he said.

Garneau told reporters that “complex software” systems to handle the new passenger compensation rules also necessitated the delay.

Passenger Mary Alice Ernst, en route to Chicago from Montreal with her daughter Monday, said the traveller bill of rights was a breath of fresh air.

“Used to be, back in the day, they were really eager to please you, and provide those extra incidentals — free hotel, things like that. Now they’re not so quick to respond to those needs. They have excuses,” she said of airlines. “We need this.”

As of Monday, airlines must also outline clear rules around carriage of musical instruments.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival exceeds expectations

Artists, attendees and organizers praise effort behind successful event

New attractions, rides and more lined up for Salmon Arm Fair

Event organizers invite community to be part of the growth

Sunday transit service getting closer to reality for Salmon Arm

BC Transit spokesperson says Sunday service, later hours dependent on provincial approval

CSRD approves grant application for electric vehicle

South Shuswap Transportation Society receives a lift from regional district

Kayaks, paddleboards stolen from tenants at Shuswap resort

Thefts reported to have occurred overnight on Wednesday, Aug. 14

Shuswap SPCA seeks funds to treat dog that may lose an eye

Two surgeries for severe eye infection unsuccessful, removal a consideration

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab in Surrey

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

B.C. seizes 1.5M grams contraband tobacco, down from 5.75M grams the year prior

The 2019-2020 seizures were a sharp drop compared to the 2018-2019 year,

B.C. Speaker tight-lipped about aide’s legislature security tour

B.C. Liberals question Alan Mullen’s drive across Canada, U.S.

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: High temperatures with mix of sun and cloud

Your weather report for Tuesday, August 20th, 2019.

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Most Read