Canada to Make Airlines Pay Passengers for Major Service Disruptions

Travel

Passenger complaints against airlines over lengthy delays or flight cancellations have risen as commercial air traffic rebounded following the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: zhengshun tang/Getty Images

Airlines must compensate passengers for major service disruptions except in limited cases like snowstorms, a measure included in consumer protection proposals in the country’s budget legislation, Canada’s transport minister said on Monday.

Passenger complaints against airlines over lengthy delays or flight cancellations have risen as commercial air traffic rebounded following the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during a period of peak congestion last summer.

The rules would impose a greater burden on carriers to compensate a passenger who complains unless the airline can prove otherwise.

Airlines would also need to establish an internal process for dealing with air travel claims while amendments would make compensation the default unless specifically cited as a limited exception.

“This means there will be no more loopholes where airlines can claim a disruption is caused by something outside of their control or a security reason when it is not,” Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters in Ottawa.

“It will no longer be the passenger who will have to prove that he or she is entitled to compensation. It will now be the airline that will need to prove that it does not have to pay for it.”

The proposed tightening of rules would also give the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) greater powers to impose monetary penalties and give it the authority to enter into compliance agreements with air carriers.

The legislation would broaden the agency’s authority to set fees to recover its costs for resolving complaints, and would replace the current process to allow for more timely decisions.

The CTA, a quasi-judicial tribunal responsible for enforcing existing passenger refund requirements, said it now has a backlog of over 44,000 complaints.

Airlines have argued that are being forced to shoulder the bill for disruptions often caused by other industry players like airports.

“These measures are not meant to demonize airlines,” Alghabra added.

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Deepa Babington)

RELATED:

Travel Misadventures: What to Do (and Not Do) to Avoid Them 

Travel 2023: Following COVID Restrictions, It’s About “Revenge Travel”