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

Local basketball star Annika Parr selected as alternate for Team BC’s U14 squad

Parr is excited about the possibility of playing in Halifax

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Hagensborg Water District ratepayers vote to dissolve district

In a close vote of 68 to 63, ratepayers have chosen to dissolve the water district

Bella Coola residents rely on food bank support

Your volunteers at the food bank work year-round, but are especially busy at Christmas

Nimpkish back in service while NSW undergoes repairs

The Northern Sea Wolf sustained damage to its propellers from a log strike in November

VIDEO: Kenney lays out key demands for meeting with Trudeau

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney aims for clear signs of federal action on two-day Ottawa trip

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Dance cancelled after Alberta teacher’s climate lesson prompts online threats

School district near Red Deer cancelled annual family dance due to Facebook comments

Most Read