What’s in the New Canadian Airline Passenger ‘Bill of Rights’?

Frustrated business men and women at an airport ticket counter
Now there may at least be some money in it for you to endure this.

Sitting inside a plane on the tarmac for hours on end without air conditioning or a bathroom. Having to listen to a surly airline employee “regret the inconvenience this has caused.” Spending the night on the floor of the airport. Almost everyone who flies has a horror story.

For passengers on Canadian airlines, that (mostly emotional) pain and suffering may now come with some cash. That’s because the first phase of the country’s airline passenger “bill of rights” went into effect on July 15.

What’s in It for You?

The new rules encompass a broad range of mishaps within the airlines’ control. Passengers can receive up to $2,100 and a refund of their baggage fee for lost or damaged baggage. For bumping a passenger due to overbooking or changing to a smaller aircraft, a passenger can receive $900 for being delayed by six hours or less and up to $2,400 for arriving more than nine hours late.

Other new rules going into effect on July 15 include:

  • Limiting the time spent on the tarmac to three hours before having to allow passengers to disembark
  • Providing bathroom access, free food and drink, communication outside the plane, and heating and cooling when stuck on the tarmac
  • Providing regular communication and updates regarding delays and cancellations
  • Informing passengers of their rights
  • Creating guidelines for allowing musical instruments as luggage

And that’s not all. The second phase of new rules will come into effect on December 15. Those include:

  • Providing compensation for delays within the airlines’ control of $400 for a three- to six-hour delay and up to $1,000 for delays lasting longer than nine hours
  • Guaranteeing a seat for a child under 5 next to their parent or guardian for no extra charge and seating nearby for children up to 13
  • Providing free hotel accommodations for overnight delays

What It Doesn’t Cover

The new protections do not cover anything deemed outside of an airline’s control. That includes flight delays caused by a maintenance issue spotted on the pre-flight check. It could also mean delays caused by weather, air traffic control, medical emergencies, security, or a manufacturing defect.

Airlines Not on Board With Law

While some passengers’ rights groups argue that the new laws don’t go far enough, predictably (because sometimes airlines seem to enjoy our misery, don’t they?), airlines and their trade groups responded to the new rules with a lawsuit.

The suit, led by the Air Transport Association of Canada, Air Canada, Porter Airlines, and several other airlines, argues that the CTA does not have the authority to put the new regulations into place. They argue that the compensation requirements are extremely high and would lead to higher ticket prices.

The office of Attorney General David Lametti argued in a court filing that the lawsuit should be dismissed.

What You Need to Do

The CTA encourages passengers who believe they have a claim to first file with the airline they were using and respect the deadlines for filing. If they cannot come to an agreement, passengers can visit this CTA site to appeal.

In most cases, you should not need an attorney’s help, but eventually it may be necessary. In the European Union, which offers a wide range of passenger protections, several passengers assistance groups have popped up. These groups, such as AirHelp, handle the claim on behalf of the passenger for a percentage of the final compensation. Canadian passengers may have that option soon as well.

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