Demand for flying is robust for 2023: Managing director
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra detailed a list of proposed reforms on Monday which he said are designed to close loopholes used by airlines to avoid paying fees under Ottawa's passenger rights rules.
The amendments to Ottawa's passenger rights charter were tabled in the House of Commons on Thursday as part of Bill C-47, the Budget Implementation Act. Here is what travellers need to know about the new rules once they come into force:
SHIFTING THE ONUS
The federal government's proposal would make passenger compensation the default in cases of flight disruption, with the onus on airlines to prove a flight delay or cancellation was due to reasons outside its control.
Carriers would also face a greater burden of proof in situations where it is presumed that compensation is warranted.
"It will no longer be the passenger who will have to prove that he or she is entitled to compensation," Alghabra said at a press conference on Monday.
"It will now be the airline that will need to prove that it does not have to pay for it. This will make the process much simpler and push the burden of proof onto the airlines."
10 TIMES THE FINES
"To ensure even greater accountability," Alghabra said Ottawa is strengthening the Canadian Transportation Agency's powers to allow the regulator to impose maximum fines of $250,000 on airlines — up tenfold from the current maximum of $25,000.
"I know there may be some, mostly airlines, who claim that we are unfairly targeting them with these new measures to hold them accountable," the minister said. "It is the airline's responsibility to make sure they uphold their obligations to their customers."
In 2022, new regulations on refund requirements for flight cancellations or lengthy delays outside of an air carrier’s control, such as major weather events or pandemic-related causes, came into force.
Now, the government is seeking to establish requirements for delayed baggage, too. Previous provisions only explicitly required airlines to compensate passengers for lost or damaged luggage.
"Since last summer, we also saw how lost baggage impacted passengers," said Alghabra. "That's why our proposed changes to the bill of rights would put in place new requirements which will be announced in the next few weeks for delayed and lost baggage."
SHORTENED DECISION TIME
Carriers will be required to establish an internal process for dealing with air travel claims, should the rules pass. Under that process, an airline would have 30 days after receiving a complaint from a traveller to come to a decision.
For complaints that reach the Canadian Transportation Agency, the regulator will have 60 days from the launch of its mediation process between the airline and passenger to order compensation or dismiss the claim.
Alghabra said the government is also proposing "to hold airlines more accountable" by allowing the agency to recover the cost of air passenger complaints from the airlines, "giving airline a stronger incentive to address complaints directly with travellers as soon as possible."
He said Ottawa expects these rules to reduce the number of complaints referred to the agency.
STREAMLINING THE COMPLAINTS PROCESS
To simplify the complaints process, the government is proposing that the regulator be able to designate members of its staff as "complaint resolution officers."
Officers would be responsible for mediating complaints between airlines and passengers, starting no later than 30 days after a complaint is filed. They would also have the power to dismiss complaints if deemed to be in bad faith or if the officer is satisfied the carrier met its obligations.
"We're proposing to make the process even more efficient," said Alghabra. "Under these amendments, the CTA would clear air passenger complaints sooner by replacing its current adjudication process for resolving disputes with a simplified process completed by their staff."
—With files from Christopher Reynolds in Montreal
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2023.
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