Federal government announces new rules on airline passenger protection, compensation
Some regulations take effect July 15, others start in December
The federal government is rolling out its air passenger protection regulations on the eve of the summer travel season setting out what compensation airlines must pay for failing to provide adequate services to passengers.
The new regulations announced Friday will be launched in two phases. Some regulations come into force on July 15, while others will not take effect until December 15.
"Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive," Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.
"After a long and thorough consultation process, I am proud to say these new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travellers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve," he added.
The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Large airlines, those that have serviced two million passengers or more in the last two years, will have a slightly different regulatory regime than smaller airlines in some cases.
Smaller airlines, for example, will have to pay less compensation for delays or cancellations that are within the airline's control but are not related to safety issues.
Broadly, flight disruptions — tarmac delays, flight cancellations, and denials of boarding — that are within an airline's control require compensation be paid, standards of treatment be upheld and the passenger's itinerary be completed.
Flight disruptions within an airline's control but required for safety reasons will not require compensation but airlines will have to maintain a standard of treatment and complete a passenger's itinerary.
Situations outside an airline's control that cause a flight disruption will only require the airline to ensure the passenger's itinerary is completed.
Situations within an airline's control include overbooking and scheduled maintenance.
Delays within an airline's control due to safety include mechanical problems and safety calls made by the pilot.
Disruptions outside an airline's control include a wide range of possibilities such as political instability, weather, natural disasters and security threats.
Rules in place by July 15
The first set of rules lays out the regulations and compensation regime related to delays on the tarmac, what happens when a passenger is denied boarding, lost and damaged luggage and the transportation of musical instruments.
The standards of treatment during a delay on the tarmac that must be in force by July 15 include ensuring that all passengers have access to working toilets.
An airline will also have to ensure the aircraft is properly ventilated and kept either cool or warm depending on the time of year. Passengers will also have to be provided food and drink and the ability to communicate with people outside of the plane free of charge, if possible.
Planes that have been on the tarmac for three hours will be required to return to the gate so people can get off. The only exception is when a departure is likely within the first 45 minutes after the three-hour time. In that case, the plane can remain where it is.
Starting July 15, passengers who are prevented from boarding an aircraft because of overbooking will be compensated financially depending on the length of time they are delayed from reaching their final destination.
Overbooking delays of less than six hours will require a minimum $900 payment, delays between six and nine hours mean a minimum $1,800 payment and delays longer than nine hours will see passengers compensated a minimum of $2,400.
When it comes to lost or damaged baggage, an airline will be liable for $2,100 for the lost bag and will also have to refund any baggage fees paid for the lost bag.
Airlines are also going to have to include terms and conditions for the transportation of musical instruments whether they are taken as a carry on or are checked into the cargo hold.
The rules and compensation for cancelled flights and delays are part of phase two of the rollout.
As of December 15, airlines will have to provide compensation to passengers for delayed or cancelled flights depending on the size of the airline.
Delayed arrival at a final destination of between three to six hours will cost large airlines $400 and small airlines $125. Delays of between six to nine hour will cost large airlines $700 and small airlines $250. Delays greater than nine hours will cost large airlines $1,000 and smaller airlines half that amount.
The regulations do not only require an airline ensure the passenger gets to their final destination, but that they do so in the same class of service.
If an airline cannot rebook a passenger on their own airline and the delay is longer than nine hours, the airline has to book the passenger on a competing airline. If the passenger decides the delay has rendered the trip useless they will get a refund and the required financial compensation.
By mid December, airlines will also have to ensure that children under the age of five are seated next to their parent or guardian, children aged five to 11 are in the same row and no more than one seat away from their parent or guardian and children aged 12 or 13 are no more than one row away.
Airlines that don't adhere to the new standards can be fined up to $25,000 per incident by the Canadian Transport Agency.
"Thousands of Canadians participated in the consultations that helped shape these new rules," Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, said in a statement.
"We're grateful for their input, and confident that these groundbreaking regulations will help ensure passengers are treated fairly if their air travel doesn't go smoothly,"