Canada’s New Air Passenger Protections

Filed Under: Air Canada, Other Airlines

Last December I wrote about how the Canadian Transportation Agency was working on putting a new passenger bill of rights into law. This is something I’m a fan of. It’s something that the US also desperately needs, given the complete lack of rights that passengers have in the event of cancelations and delays.

Canada’s new air passenger bill of rights

This has been debated extensively over the past several months, and today the final details of the new regulations have officially been announced. These new rights will be introduced in two phases, on July 15 and December 15, 2019.

As Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, describes these changes:

“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.

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.”

These new regulations apply to all flights that are to, from, or within Canada, including those simply connecting there.

It’s also interesting to note that many of the compensation structures are different for “large airlines” and “small airlines,” with large airlines being those that have carried more than two million people in the past two years.

So, what should we expect from these new passenger rights? While you can check the full details here, I wanted to focus on the denied boarding compensation and delay compensation, since those are the most interesting to me:

Denied boarding compensation

Starting July 15, 2019, passengers will be entitled to the following compensation in the event of denied boarding:

  • $900, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by less than six hours
  • $1,800, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by six hours or more, but less than nine hours
  • $2,400, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by nine hours or more

Delay compensation

Starting December 15, 2019, passengers will be entitled to compensation if their flight is delayed.

In the case of large carriers, the following will apply:

  • $400, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by three hours or more, but less than six hours
  • $700, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by six hours or more, but less than nine hours
  • $1,000, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by nine hours or more

In the case of small carriers, the following will apply:

  • $125, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by three hours or more, but less than six hours
  • $250, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by six hours or more, but less than nine hours
  • $500, if the arrival of the passenger’s flight at the destination that is indicated on the original ticket is delayed by nine hours or more

While I think it’s fair that big carriers are on the hook for more than small carriers, frankly I’m surprised by just how big the difference is.

One significant difference between the Canadian rules and those you’d find in Europe (under EU261) is that airlines don’t have to pay delay compensation in the event of mechanical delays.

There’s a provision that compensation doesn’t have to be paid when it’s “required for safety purposes,” which includes “safety decisions made within the authority of the pilot of the aircraft or any decision made in accordance with a safety management system.”

In those situations airlines will have a duty of care, but won’t actually be required to provide compensation.

I see where they’re coming from, but I also have concerns about that. In the same way we often see airlines in the US blame “weather” as a scapegoat for a delay, I can also see an airline blaming maintenance.

For example, if a crew is missing for a flight, what’s to stop an airline from claiming there’s a maintenance issue to potentially get out of paying every passenger on the plane $1,000?

Bottom line

I commend Canada for introducing some proper rights for passengers, as that’s something we also desperately need in the US. The compensation amounts are significant, and I also respect their distinction between large and small carriers.

However, I do have concerns about accountability surrounding airlines not paying compensation in the event of mechanical problems, and how that will be enforced.

There’s a lot more to these regulations, so check out the full air passenger protection regulations for all the details.

What do you make of Canada’s new protections for passengers?

Comments
  1. “This is something I’m a fan of.”
    Why would anyone, in regard to any issue, advocate for government involvement? Unfortunately, it’s usually those individuals who follow the knee-jerk “there ought to be a law” mantra.

  2. @ James N — I’m curious where you draw the line as to where the government shouldn’t interfere with airlines? Should there be laws regarding how long an airline can keep you on the tarmac during a delay, or no?

  3. @lucky – what causes of delay will actually get paid out under this regulation?

    Crew being over timed = too tired to be safe, weather = unsafe, mech= unsafe.

    so… the airlines claim safety on every day and pay out precisely nothing?

  4. Nothing like a law with absolutely zero teeth to make people feel like they’re getting something.

  5. Nobody is going to see a dime for any if this, especially from AC. Those guys don’t even payout when you try to hold them accountable to their own fare rules and regulations. AC farms out it’s refund and compensation services to Conduent, a faceless US corp, so good luck trying to get compensation for your six hour delay in Saskatoon!

  6. James N – What’s the point in having a government at all if they aren’t going to “intervene” in anything? That’s the entire point of having one… I take it you don’t want the US/Canada to be an anarchist society with no law?

    Looking at how dreadfully most people act even with strict laws and punishments, I dread to think what that would be like!

  7. @ Lucky, It appears you’re asking me, “Should the government dictate to private businesses operational procedures and rules?” My answer—No!

  8. All laws have unintended consequences. Flights to Canada are already more expensive than domestic USA flights. The cost of tickets will go up and everyone will blame big bad greedy corporations and capitalism. I’ve got over 3 million butt miles in my years of flying. Believe me I’ve been inconvenienced, delayed, and disappointed more times than I can count. I really never got the impression the airline I was flying on was happy about the delay. It generally costs them a ton of money and they don’t want their planes (and passengers) sitting on the tarmac or at the gate. Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned but stuff happens. Not everybody gets a cookie because they are sad.

    Lucky, this is not directed at you personally. You run a great blog and I enjoy reading OMAAT every day.

  9. James N: asks
    Why would anyone, in regard to any issue, advocate for government involvement?

    Excellent question since we have seen how well the airlines themselves have implemented much more generous and customer oriented compensation for delays and denied boarding.

    <>

  10. Recently got bumped from a 2hr Lufthansa flight. My wife and I got 250 Euros each, got upgraded to business class seats leaving 4hrs later, and access to the LH lounge for our wait. No haggling involved. Paid for a late (by US eating times) Michelin star dinner in Bilbao and then some. Score!

  11. James N: asks
    Why would anyone, in regard to any issue, advocate for government involvement?

    Excellent question since we have seen how well the airlines themselves have implemented much more generous and customer oriented compensation for delays and denied boarding.

    The following was omitted from my previous post:
    Sarcasm Alert for those with SDD — sarcasm detection deficiency
    Memo to self do not embed text with

  12. These new regulations will be useless. Compensation will never be paid out to anyone. All delays will be deemed to be weather related or mechanical in nature. This is mostly a publicity stunt for Justin Trudeau’s liberal party that
    Will soon be out of office.

  13. ” I take it you don’t want the US/Canada to be an anarchist society with no law?”

    Excellent use of the straw man.

  14. @James N Fair My first regulation would be that airline management has to fly basic economy, so they can see what it is really like for the rest of us.

  15. This is a political document full of holes. Take away the ‘mechanical issue’ excuse and the airlines will smarten up fast.

  16. This sucks. Mechanical issue should never had been a way out! It is UNDER CONTROL OF THE AIRLINE (maybe they should have newer planes, maybe they should do proper maintenance, maybe…). So in the end it is completely useless. They will ALWAYS claim it is not their fault. Same with crew: don’t have a crew available? That is your business decision (maybe you should have crews on hold, etc.).

  17. One simple thing would be to require airlines to submit a maintenance log after each claimed incident and allow the public to access and chanllenge that information. Make that part of the airlines safety / reliability figure too, to be published each year (how many mechanical delays and %)

  18. I don’t think this is a worthless. The IDB rules in Canada are essentially nonexistent presently. AC is *much* more likely to overbook and IDB than a US carrier due to the lack of necessary compensation. This should change that pattern.

    On delayed and cancelled flights, again, Canadian airlines are really bad about this. Look at the cancellation rate at YTZ. I love Porter but it is obvious that have been cancelling flights for “weather” that are really driven by their pilot shortage and less than full flights. The EU law goes too far – it ends up punishing airlines for things they can’t control, raising costs for everyone – but the Canada cancellation rule which relies on self reported “safety” worries is too weak. (And no wonder – Canada is very protectionist with its large national companies. Witness the upcoming AC acquisition of Transat, the 3rd largest Canadian carrier. Two colleagues and I have an article this week in the Globe and Mail about how anti competitive this acquisition is.)

  19. @James N:

    the government should not regulate airline safety, or banks, or the financial industries, or chemical companies, or food safety, or energy companies, or defense contractors, or the pharmaceutical industry, or the insurance industry, or etc. , because those companies/industries have proven to be trustworthy and ethical in the past. Sarcasm off. Idiot.

  20. Every half full flight between YYZ and YUL will now be cancelled due to mechanical issues (safety). No compensation will be seen by passengers. Same as before.

  21. James N – “Excellent use of the straw man.”

    Its not remotely a straw man. If you agree with some laws but not others, “the government shouldn’t be interfering” cannot be used as an argument.

    If your position is actually “the strong or the powerful should be able to take advantage of those weaker than them” then feel free to say so.

  22. This loophole riddled and therefore essentially useless policy is being announced 5 months before the Canadian federal election by a ruling political party that is running dead last in the polls compared to the other two major parties. This is nothing more than an empty promise from a drowning man. Forget about it.

  23. The following comments could also apply to the EU, but let’s stick to Canada given their new bill.
    I get that you should be generously compensated if an airline involuntarily bump you. After all, it’s their choice to oversell. However, I take issue with the majority of the rest of the financial compensation.
    1. $1000 if delayed 9 hours or more. Plus meals and accommodation. Outrageously disproportioned to what passengers actually paid for their ticket.
    2. Large company vs non-large. What difference does it make? If you institute regulations, they should apply across the board. Oversales or delays is about how it is managed not size of company. Rediculously amateurish, and copy/pasting from other regulations where size actual matters
    3. Aviation vs. practically any other industry. I would be ok with all these monetary penalties if consumer protection laws would apply accross the board and not just for aviation. How many times have you not been delayed in competing a project at home by a contractor, and no law states that the Plummer must pay a large sum of money to compensate you? Or a delivery or your new XYZ, with guaranteed delivery by xxx. What about other means of transport and travel- trains, Uber’s hotel oversales? Where is similar regulatory penalty requirements for that?

    It is Political opportunism. Securing heavy regulatory penalties for airlines makes for good votes at next election. Doing the same for delivety if not and bolts ordered online etc is not sexy.
    What happened to consumers showing businesses (by their loyalty or lack or same) what is ok and what is not? This has gone too far…

  24. @Erik – no because of the cancellation provision of the regulations (which aren’t covered in this article)

    The idea behind regulations like this is to stop airlines just cancelling flights because of light loads. It can still do that but at an extra cost in having to pay compensation to the passengers affected and it will therefore factor this into the cost of the cancellation.

    And in the scheme of things it will likely be a relatively small % of flights that this will apply to – just as in the EU where it’s something like <2% of flights

    As for comments on the compensation sometime being disproportionate to the fare paid their having fixed amounts means it is easier to understand on both sides and it treats all passengers the same as they are all equally delayed. And again an airline can avoid this by doing their utmost to not cancel flights in the first place or to reduce the length of the delays so as they don't qualify. Even the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair have stopped moaning about this aspect of EU261.

  25. Recall that airline deregulation in the United States (enacted under the Carter administration, not Reagan) is largely responsible for the affordability of flights today. Airlines must be able to profit to stay in business and haul obese North American passengers. Do you expect them to fly indefinitely at a loss? That would be akin to slavery. Reparations for airlines, perhaps?

  26. “Its not remotely a straw man.”
    It’s a textbook example of a straw man, also known as the “Fallacy of Extension”. I offered the opinion that government shouldn’t be dictating procedures and rules to private businesses and you made the leap to an absence of laws and anarchy. Nice work!

  27. I don’t like it. Why would an airline have to pay a set amount for a delay? Are there restrictions based on ticket price and why wouldn’t these penalties be based on a percentage of ticket price (to a point).

    It’s all about money …and expect to see a few more issues mechanically now because it is all about money …it’s a small crack, don’t worry about it. Putting a dollar value on safety procedures is never a good idea.

  28. @James N you also asked, assumedly rhetorically: “Why would anyone, in regard to any issue, advocate for government involvement?” Government involvement in issues is directly relevant to the creation of procedures and laws.

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