Canada’s transportation regulator is beginning cross-country consultations with air travellers a month after Ottawa passed a new Transportation Modernization Act.
The act gives a mandate to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to create new regulations to improve air passenger rights and create standards of treatment and compensation for travellers when airlines fail to provide services as promised.
“We know that air travel issues are very much on the minds of Canadians,” said Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the agency.
“Ensuring we can strengthen air traveller rights by having a set of minimum obligations on the part of airlines that are clear to passengers and airlines so there’s less confusion about that people are entitled to if their flight is delayed for instance.”
Two hot-button issues for travellers include compensation for lost or delayed baggage and the conduct of airlines when they keep passengers captive aboard a flight prior to departure or after arrival.
Gabor Lukacs, a prominent critic of airlines and the agency, accused the CTA in a letter June 4 of making “false and/or misleading” statements on the regulator’s website, asserting that consumers are left confused and misinformed about baggage compensation that exists already.
“The statement that ‘there is no minimum compensation level’ contradicts not only the clear and unambiguous wording of the Montreal Convention, but also the Agency’s own finding of law that the airline is required to pay full restitution,” wrote Lukacs, who is with the Halifax-based group Air Passenger Rights.
The agency replied to Lukacs that “the new regulations would provide for minimum compensation in certain cases.”
Streiner was asked whether passengers confined aboard a plane on the ground for several hours should need to call 911 to get out as at least one passenger did in spring on an aircraft that had landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
“We can all agree that we don’t want passengers to ever have to call 911 to have their rights respected,” said Streiner.
But he wouldn’t say how long passengers should be legally obligated to wait inside an aircraft on the ground.
“Nobody thinks people should be trapped on a plane for six hours,” he said, adding he didn’t want to prejudge what Canadians would suggest as reasonable limits during the public consultations.
The CTA will hear submissions in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, and Ottawa followed by a call-in session on July 5.