Canada Air Passenger Protections: Compensation for Delays, Cancellations

Canada's Air Passenger Protections Will Compensate Passengers for Delays and Cancellations, as well as those involuntarily denied boarding (bumped) from a flight. By way of comparison, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) only compensates for bumped passengers, not for passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled. The European Union, of course, does compensate for flight cancellations and delays, via EC 261/2004 (see United EC 261/2004 Compensation Claim: Know Your Rights)

Canada's new passenger right rules are being launched in two phases, with some of the provisions effective on July 15, 2019, while others will not come into force until December 15, 2019.  Canada's Air Passenger Protections will apply to all airlines with flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.

July 15, 2019 Requirements

The first set of rules include communication protocol for flight disruptions; compensation for involuntarily denied boarding and lost and damaged luggage; and rules governing tarmac delays and the communication of policy and fees for the transportation of musical instruments.

Communication Protocol During Flight Disruptions

During a flight disruption an airline must tell passengers why their flight has been disrupted as soon as feasible, via an audible announcement as well as the communication method (e.g. email or text) that the passenger has selected. Communication must also be accessible to passengers with disabilities.

Especially key is that airlines must provide flight status updates at least every 30 minutes until a new departure time has been confirmed.

Bumped Passengers (Involuntarily Denied Boarding)

If a passenger is involuntarily denied boarding for a flight due to something that is within the airline's control and is not required for safety (examples include airline overbooking or a change in aircraft due to scheduled maintenance) the passenger is entitled to compensation in the following amounts:

  • Delays <6 hours: CAD $900
  • Delays 6-9 hours: CAD $1800
  • Delays of >9 hours: CAD $2400

The operating carrier is to issue compensation at the time the passenger is notified that they are denied boarding, although the compensation amount could be greater if the passenger's delay on arrival is longer than was expected when payment was made (for example the delay was expected to be <6 hours but ended up being 8 hours, an additional CAD $900 would be due to the passenger).

Lost or Damaged Baggage

Airlines will now be liable for lost or damaged baggage on domestic flights within Canada, up to the same $2100 maximum specified by the Montreal Convention for international flights. For damaged baggage, passengers must file a claim within 7 days of receiving the baggage. For potentially lost luggage, passengers must file a claim within 21 days of when it was supposed to arrive.

Tarmac Delays

Tarmac delays will be limited to 3 hours, with the only extension beyond the 3 hour maximum an additional 45 minutes if the plane is likely to take off within that time. Otherwise the plane must return to the gate and allow passengers to disembark.

Musical Instruments

Airlines will not be able to have a policy that the airline does not accept musical instruments. Instead, airlines must provide a policy on musical instruments as part of their conditions of carriage, for both instruments checked and those taken as carry-ons. Weight, size, quantity restrictions, cabin storage options, options in the event of an aircraft downgrade and fees must be provided.

December 15, 2019 Requirements

Flight Delays and Cancellations

Effective December 15, 2019, prior to the busy winter holiday season, airlines with flights that are to, from or within Canada will be required to compensate passengers for delays that are in their control and not related to safety (I imagine we'll see some contention between the airlines and Canadian Transportation Agency about what's within airlines' control):

  • Delays of 3-6 hours: CAD $400
  • Delays >6 hours – 9 hours: CAD $700
  • Delays of >9 hours: CAD $1000

The above is for large airlines (those that have transported at least 2 million passengers per year in each of the two preceding years; all other airlines are considered small, and the compensation amounts are much less: CAD $125, $250 and $500 respectively for the above).

Compensation must be provided in monetary form; while the airline may also offer it in the form of a voucher, any alternative compensation must be for a higher amount, and may not expire, and the passenger may always opt for monetary compensation.

After a departure delay of 2 hours, the airline must provide food and drink in reasonable quantities and free WiFi.

For all delays, after a departure delay of 3 hours, an airline must rebook the passenger on their next available flight

If the flight delay or cancellation is within the airline's control:

  • Passengers must be rebooked in the same class of service
  • Large airlines must rebook the passenger on another airline, if their own next available flight departs 9 or more hours after the passenger's original departure time
  • If rebooking no longer meets the passenger's needs, the passenger is entitled to a refund of the ticket, plus inconvenience compensation of $400 for large airlines and $125 for small airlines

For flight disruptions outside the airline's control, a large airline must rebook the passenger with another airline if their own next available flight does not depart within 48 hours.

Children's Seating

Airlines must, at no extra cost, seat children under the age of 14 near their parent or guardian:

  • Under 5 years: in a seat next to the parent or guardian
  • Ages 5-11: in the same row as the parent or guardian, and separated by no more than 1 seat
  • Ages 12-13: separated by no more than 1 row from the parent or guardian

Frankly, I wish that U.S. passengers had these same rights, especially with regards to flight delays and cancellations. What are your thoughts on the new CTA passenger protections?

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