Part of the new Air Passenger Protection Regulations will come into force starting July 15, 2019

Part of the new Air Passenger Protection Regulations will come into force starting July 15, 2019

TORONTO, May 24, 2019 CNW

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, today announced that Canadians will begin to benefit from new Air Passenger Protection Regulations starting on July 15, 2019. The Canadian Transportation Agency’s final regulations are available now on their website.

The Transportation Modernization Act, which received Royal Assent in May 2018, mandated the Agency to develop regulations for air travellers that would be clear, consistent, transparent and fair. After months of public and stakeholder consultations, Canadians will soon be covered by robust new regulations that apply to all air carriers flying to, from and within Canada. These new regulations will require air carriers to proactively offer standards of treatment. Additionally, in some cases, carriers will be required to issue compensation to passengers within strict timelines. Passengers will not need to first complain to the Canadian Transportation Agency; instead, recourse is first dealt directly with the airline. Air carriers will be required to follow these regulations and could face fines of up to $25,000 per incident of non-compliance.

Following input received on the draft regulations, a phased-in approach will ensure air carriers have time to adjust to the new regulations. Requirements related to communication, tarmac delays, denied boarding, lost and damaged luggage, and the transportation of musical instruments will come into force on July 15, 2019. The more complex requirements related to flight delays and cancellations will come into force on December 15, 2019. The new regulations also take into account the realities of small and northern air carriers, as well as ultra-low cost carriers, with requirements adjusted accordingly.

Requirements as of July 15, 2019

Clear communication

General information

The regulations require that passengers be informed of their rights in a timely, clear and accessible way. Airlines will have to provide passengers with information in simple, clear and concise language on their terms and conditions of carriage for:

  • Flight delay or cancellation;
  • Denial of boarding;
  • Lost or damaged baggage; and
  • The seating of children under 14 years of age.

This information will have to be provided electronically and on all travel documents the airline provides to the passenger. This could be done via a hyperlink to the airline’s website. Airlines will also be required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that official ticket resellers provide this information to customers.

During a flight disruption

Airlines will be required to keep passengers regularly informed if there is a flight disruption (flight and tarmac delays; flight cancellations; and denials of boarding).

They will have to tell passengers why their flight has been disrupted as soon as is feasible. This information will have to be provided through:

  • an audible announcement;
  • a visible announcement, upon request; and
  • the available communication method the passenger has selected (e.g., email, SMS).

Airlines will have to provide flight status updates every 30 minutes until a new departure time has been confirmed. The airline must offer any new status information to passengers as soon as is feasible, which may be sooner than 30 minutes after the last update.

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Airlines will have to ensure that communication is accessible to persons with disabilities. Where information is provided digitally, the format will have to be compatible with adaptive technologies used by persons with disabilities. If information is provided in paper format, the airline will have to be able to provide it in large print, Braille or a digital format, upon request.

Denied boarding

Denied boarding occurs when a passenger has a valid ticket for a flight, but is not allowed to occupy a seat on board the aircraft because the number of passengers who have checked in, have proper documentation and are at the gate on time is greater than the number of available  seats that can be occupied.

Before any carrier denies boarding to a passenger for reasons within its control or required for safety, it must look for volunteers to give up their seat. Once an airline has found a volunteer to give up their seat, the airline must put in writing for them the benefits agreed to prior to the departure of their flight.

Any passenger who is denied boarding for a reason that is within the airline’s control and is not required for safety – for example, commercial overbooking or a change in aircraft due to scheduled maintenance – would be entitled to compensation. A passenger’s compensation would be based on length of delay at arrival at their final destination.

Minimum Levels of Compensation

Length of delayAmount (CAD)
0-6 hours$900
6-9 hours$1800
9+ hours$2400

The airline operating the affected flight will have to issue compensation at the time the passenger is notified that they are denied boarding. The amount of compensation could be supplemented if a passenger’s delay at arrival is longer than was expected when payment was issued. If payment cannot be made before the passenger’s new departure time, the airline would be required to issue the payment within 48 hours.

After an airline denies boarding to a passenger, they must rebook them free of charge, meeting the same obligations as described for flight delays and cancellations below. While the passenger waits for their new flight, the airline must provide the standards of treatment described for flight delays and cancellations below.

Tarmac delays

The regulations ensure that during tarmac delays – whether they occur in Canada or abroad – passengers are properly treated.  Standards of treatment for all tarmac delays include, at minimum, access to working lavatories, proper ventilation and heating or cooling, food and drink, and the ability to communicate with people outside the plane free of charge, if feasible.

As well, after a 3 hour tarmac delay at a Canadian airport, airlines will be required to return to the gate so that passengers can disembark. However, a plane will be permitted to stay on the tarmac for up to 45 additional minutes, if it is likely that it will take off within that period and the airline is able to continue providing the required standards of treatment.

This allowance for a short extension is intended to ensure that the plane can take off if there is a reasonable prospect of this occurring – so that passengers reach their final destination and do not suffer further inconvenience caused by a flight cancellation.

However, if take off is not likely to occur within that 45 minute window, the plane will have to return to the gate. In no circumstances will airlines be permitted to exceed this time, unless they are prevented for reasons related to safety, security, customs or air traffic control.

Lost or damaged baggage

Under the Montreal Convention, an international air transport treaty to which Canada is a party, airlines can be held liable for baggage that is damaged or lost during international travel, up to approximately $2100. To provide better protection to passengers travelling within Canada, the  airlines will be held liable for up to the same amount for baggage that is lost or damaged during domestic flights.

A passenger must file a claim for expenses with the airline. For damaged baggage, the claim must be submitted within seven days after the passenger receives the baggage. For potentially lost baggage, the claim must be submitted within 21 days after the day it was supposed to arrive.

In addition, the regulations require airlines to reimburse passengers for any baggage fees paid if their baggage is damaged or lost.

Transportation of musical instruments

Airlines will have to include, in their tariffs, terms and conditions of carriage regarding the transportation of musical instruments as checked or carry-on baggage. This includes:

  • Weight, size and quantity restrictions;
  • Cabin storage options;
  • Options in the event of aircraft downgrading; and
  • Fees for transporting musical instruments.

A policy which simply states that the airline will not accept musical instruments does not meet the requirements.

Requirements as of December 15, 2019

Flight disruptions

Communication

In addition to the communication requirements above, airlines will have to provide passengers with information on the applicable standards of treatment and compensation. They will also have to tell passengers about their recourse options, including the ability to make a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Minimum Levels of Compensation

Airlines will be required to pay passengers compensation for flight delays or cancellations that are in their control and not related to safety. Passengers will be entitled to compensation based on the length of delay at arrival at their final destination:

Length of delayAmount (CAD)
3-6 hours$400
6-9 hours$700
9+ hours$1000
Length of delayAmount (CAD)
3-6 hours$125
6-9 hours$250
9+ hours$500

A passenger will have one year to make a compensation claim with the airline that operated the disrupted flight. The airline would have 30 days to respond by issuing a payment or indicating why it believes compensation is not owed.

Airlines will have to offer passengers this compensation in monetary form. They could also offer passengers alternative forms of compensation (e.g., vouchers or rebates), but passengers will always have the right to select what they prefer. As well, alternative forms of compensation offered will have to be of higher value than the monetary compensation that is required, and can never expire. 

Standards of Treatment

The regulations establish minimum standards of treatment that airlines will have to provide to passengers for delays at departure that are within their control, or within their control and required for safety purposes.

After a delay at departure of 2 hours, the airline operating the disrupted flight will have to provide:

  • food and drink in reasonable quantities; and
  • electronic means of communication (e.g., free wifi).

Finally, once a delay is expected to extend overnight, airlines will have to offer hotel or other comparable accommodation free of charge, as well as free transportation to the accommodation.

Rebooking and refund

For all types of flight delays or cancellations, the airline operating the flight will have to ensure passengers complete their itinerary (that is, reach their final destination). Once a delay reaches 3 hours, an airline will also need to rebook the passenger on their next available flight.  

If a flight delay or cancellation is within their control, or within their control and required for safety purposes, airlines will be subject to additional requirements, as follows:

  • Passengers would have to be rebooked in the same class of service.
  • Large airlines would have to rebook the passenger on another (competing) airline, if their own next available flight departs 9 or more hours after the passenger’s original departure time.
  • If rebooking does not meet a passenger’s travel needs (e.g., there is no longer any purpose to the travel), the passenger will be entitled to a refund of their ticket, as well as compensation for inconvenience: $400 for large airlines and $125 for small airlines.

In the event of a flight disruption outside of the airline’s control, a large airline will be required to rebook using the services of another (competing) airline, if their own next available flight does not depart within 48 hours.

In all cases, routing of the new flight(s) must be reasonable. If a large airline is unable to rebook a passenger on a flight leaving the same airport within 48 hours of the original departure time, they will have to book the passenger on a flight leaving another airport, if there is an option nearby.

Seating of children

Airlines will have to, at no extra cost and at the earliest opportunity, help seat children under the age of 14 near to their parent, guardian or tutor.  The proximity will depend on the age of the child:  Under the age of 5:in a seat adjacent to their parent, guardian or tutor.Aged 5 to 11:in the same row and separated by no more than one seat from their parent, guardian or tutor.Aged 12 or 13:separated by no more than a row from the parent, guardian or tutor.

Airlines will also be required to establish a policy for unaccompanied minors, and prohibit minors under the age of five from travelling without their parent or an accompanying person who is at least 16 years old.

Source: Canadian Transpotation Agency

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