Air travellers hit by delays and lost bags will soon be entitled to compensation under new federal rules

Air travellers hit by delays and lost bags will soon be entitled to compensation under new federal rules

OTTAWA—Air travellers who suffer flight delays and lost bags will soon be entitled to new compensation under rules that take effect this summer.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau confirmed Friday that the government’s new passenger rights rules — first unveiled in December — will now take effect in phases, beginning in July, to ensure that airlines keep travellers up-to-date when flights go awry and provide compensation when warranted.

Garneau said the “balanced” regulations will help ensure that airlines “live up to their commitments that they have made to travellers.”

“The regulations that I’m announcing today outline standards of treatment and compensation that an air carrier will need to provide during delays, cancellations, overbookings and other situations,” he told a news conference at Pearson International Airport.

The regulations will apply to flights to and from Canada as well as domestic flights. Airlines won’t have to pay compensation for delays that are safety-related or caused by issues beyond their control, such as weather or air traffic control tie-ups.

Ottawa is moving ahead with the new rules despite pressure from the airlines, which had urged a delay. In April, the National Airlines Council of Canada complained that the government was pushing ahead with the changes with “little consideration for their impact on the commercial airline industry and the passengers it serves.”

Yet in a nod to those concerns, the government is phasing in the changes over this year. Starting July 15, airlines will be required to provide:

  • Regular updates to passengers when flight delays and cancellations occur and provide “simple, clear” information on their rights.
  • Compensation of up to $2,400 for bumping passengers off a flight for reasons within their control.
  • Service to passengers during lengthy delays on the ground and allow them to leave the airplane if the delay is longer than three hours and there’s no prospect of an imminent takeoff.
  • Provide compensation for lost or damaged baggage of up to $2,100 and a refund of any baggage fees.

Further rules will kick in Dec. 15 that will require airlines to provide compensation of up $1,000 for flight delays and cancellations within an airline’s control that are not safety-related. They will also be required to rebook or refund passengers when flights are delayed and provide food, drink and accommodation during the delay.

As well, they will be required to facilitate the seating of children under 14 years in close proximity to an accompanying adult, at no extra charge.

Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, said the regulations will “for the first time, lay out airlines’ minimum obligations to air passengers.”

The Canadian Automobile Association said it was pleased some rules will be in place for the busy summer travel season but expressed disappointment that travellers will have to wait until December before the full protections are in place.

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“It was over three years ago that the government committed to putting a real passenger rights regime in place, so we find this latest delay really disappointing,” said Jeff Walker, CAA chief strategy officer.

He said, though, that the package itself, while far from perfect, is a solid advance for consumers.

“We will have uniform, accessible rules for all travellers instead of a patchwork of policies carriers wrote themselves, and largely keep out of sight,” he said in a statement.

Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier

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