MP expands bill to protect air travellers

A Winnipeg MP's pitch for a passengers bill of rights will land in the House of Commons next week. New Democrat Jim Maloway's bill calls for consumer protection and large fines against airlines when flights are delayed or cancelled, and full disclosure of airfares.

Proposed legislation destined for House of Commons next week

A Winnipeg MP's pitch for a passengers bill of rights will land in the House of Commons next week.

New Democrat Jim Maloway has since updated and expanded his proposed legislation since announcing his intention last month to introduce it.

At that time, the bill focused on protecting passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled, even if it's due to poor weather, as happened to many during the Christmas holidays. They would also be protected when bumped from a flight or if they experience baggage problems.

Now, the bill also calls for full disclosure of airfares. It has become common practice by airlines to advertise a base price but not the add-ons that can drive the final price way up. The advertised deals often seem too good to be true and many times, they are. The final price can end up being twice the one advertised, once taxes and fees are factored in.

Maloway, who represents the Elmwood-Transcona riding of Winnipeg, said that's unfair advertising. He wants airlines to face big fines every time the full cost of the flight isn't advertised.

"It's totally unfair. They should be advertising the true cost of the flight to the public," Maloway said. "If they don't do it … the penalty in the bill is being set at $10,000."

Two years ago, the government said it would legislate full disclosure of fares, but backed off calling the issue complex, with differing provincial laws, and different rules for foreign carriers.

Airlines support all-in pricing if everyone does it

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies supports the fight to provide all-in travel pricing and Air Canada is in favour "if our competition does the same thing," said company spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick.

"We have no issue with it whatsoever, but if we do it, everybody has to do it," agreed WestJet spokesperson Robert Palmer.

Even though Maloway's proposed legislation is a private member's bill, he believes it has a good chance of getting off the ground.

After all, some of the people most familiar with the problems associated with airline pricing are the frequent flying federal MPs, he noted.