The government has dropped the ball: Former Air Canada official on Pearson airport delays
The Canadian Transportation Agency says the total number of complaints it faced about air travel rose last year, boosted by a backlog of issues carried over from the previous year.
The agency says there were 28,673 complaints in total for the year up to March 31, 2022, up from 26,742 a year earlier.
The year's total includes 12,158 new complaints, for about an eight per cent drop from the previous year, plus the carry-over of 16,515 reports from the prior year.
Flight disruptions was markedly the biggest issue, followed by ticketing and then reservations, all in the thousands. Issues that saw complaints in the hundreds or less included baggage problems, refusal to transport, standards of treatment, and communications.
The agency says it processed 15,264 complaints, up from 10,227 the previous year, with about half of resolutions processed through the airline financial aid package.
WestJet had the most complaints processed against it at 3,288, a significant jump from the 1,101 a year earlier, while Air Canada's 3,245 complaints was a decrease from the 3,481 it faced a year earlier. Air Transat had 1,483 complaints and Sunwing had 884.
The CTA says it was left with 13,409 complaints still in progress at the end of the year, a drop from the year earlier and in line with the total for the year ending March 31, 2020.
Complaints spiked considerably in the 2019-2020 year, coming in at 19,392 compared with 7,650 a year earlier. The jump was largely due to the passenger rights charter implemented that year, while problems from Air Canada's booking system and early issues with pandemic cancellations also contributed.
The Air Passenger Protection Regulations that came into force in 2019 set among other rules, that passengers have to be compensated up to $2,400 if they were denied boarding — so-called flight bumping — because a trip was overbooked, and receive up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage. Delays and other payments for cancelled flights warrant compensation of up to $1,000.
Airlines have argued that the rules go too far, with Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc. and 16 other appellants asking a Federal Court of Appeal panel in April to change them because they say the right violates global standards and should be rendered invalid for international flights.
The CTA said in 2020 that it would be hiring more staff to process the increase in complaints. It said it had also streamlined its complaints process earlier in the year, introducing a more user-friendly complaint form online along with increased automation.