New rights for Canadian airline users - a very positive step for consumers
In case you missed it, and they were awfully low-key in making the announcement, there was major news from the Canadian Transportation Agency last week.
The CTA announced - very quietly - that passengers on Canada’s major airlines will soon have more options when their flights are overbooked, delayed or cancelled.The decision, which I think is a smashing success for Canadians, affects Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat.
In a story from Canadian Press, it was explained that the CTA now says passengers should be allowed to opt for a full refund and a free trip home if a cancellation or overbooking throws a wrench into their travel plans.
The agency also says that in certain cases carriers must rebook passengers on the first available flight — even if that flight is with a competing airline.
The rulings are in response to complaints filed by Gábor Lukács, a math professor in Halifax, who has taken on the airline industry several times.
In a news release, the agency noted that in the past, when refunds were warranted, passengers were only reimbursed for the unused portion of their tickets.
The ruling makes it clear that passengers will be able to choose whether they are rebooked or get a full refund. If they no longer want to follow through with their travel plans because of a delay or cancellation, they are entitled to be flown home free of charge — within a “reasonable time frame” — and receive a full refund on their ticket.
The new regulations do not apply to disruptions caused by bad weather or security issues.
This is obviously great news for travelers in Canada. It also comes not so long after Ottawa stepped in with plans to force airlines to make their advertisements more understandable, an announcement that caused all the big boys to give us ads that show round-trip fares or at least eliminated those annoying bits where they didn't include all the fees and taxes. So kudos to Ottawa and the federal government for both actions.
The agency noted that WestJet and Air Transat have made changes to their policies that meet most of the updated passenger rights. It is directing Air Canada to change its rules on overbooking, cancelling, delaying and rerouting flights. Air Canada has until Aug. 12 to comply.
The three airlines have 30 days to appeal the new rules.
Lukács, 29, who used to teach at the University of Winnipeg, has developed a reputation as a crusader for the rights of airline passengers.
In 2011, upon a complaint from Lukacs, the transportation agency declared Air Canada’s international baggage liability for lost or damaged luggage unreasonable and ordered the airline to replace it.
The policy said Air Canada couldn’t be held liable for valuables such as money and jewelry in checked baggage on certain itineraries.
Lukacs also scored a victory against WestJet when the transportation agency ruled the airline’s $250 limit for luggage compensation was too low and ordered it raised to $1,800 — the amount dictated by relevant international regulations.
The airline appealed, but the Federal Court of Appeal rejected the challenge, CP said.