Minister of transport announces new rules protecting Canadian air travellers

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Government of Canada reveals final air travel rules
WATCH: The federal government has announced new air passenger rules that will begin to take effect on July 15. The Air Passenger Protection Regulations include provisions for consumers to be paid for flight delays, but critics say the rules are not enough – May 24, 2019

Proposed new rules to protect Canadian travellers will require airlines to provide status updates every 30 minutes if flights are late or cancelled, according to finalized regulations released Friday.

“The regulations I am announcing today outline standards of treatment and compensation that an air carrier will need to provide during delays, cancellations, overbooking and other situations,” said Marc Garneau, the federal minister of transport.

Speaking at Pearson International Airport outside Toronto, Garneau released an updated version of Air Passenger Protection Regulations, first unveiled last December.

The regulations, virtually identical to those released prior to a two-month public consultation and 60-day comment period, will be published in the Canada Gazette Part II on May 29 and are not yet law.

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The changes will be phased in beginning on July 15, covering denied boarding compensation, tarmac delays and compensation for lost or damaged baggage.

On Dec. 15, the rest of the rules become law, prescribing how much an airline must pay travellers if a flight is delayed and specifying the level of service a passenger can expect to receive from the airline in those circumstances.

“During tarmac delays, this includes reasonable quantities of food and drink and proper ventilation and cooling or heating. If takeoff is not imminent after three hours, passengers must be allowed to disembark,” Garneau told reporters.

Ian Jack, spokesperson for the Canadian Automobile Association, said he is glad the new rules will make air passenger rights more transparent.

“The carriers have not made it easy, historically, for people to find their tariffs online,” he said.

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Under the new rules, airlines can legally hold passengers on board an aircraft for three hours, provided they receive the food and drink.

Additionally, an airline can keep passengers up to 45 more minutes “if it is likely that it will take off within that period and the airline is able to continue providing the required standards of treatment.”

However, the rules state “in no circumstances will airlines be permitted to exceed” three hours and 45 minutes.

Airlines are required to pay passengers compensation for “delays or cancellations that are in their control and are not related to safety.”

For large airlines, the amounts are:

  • 3-6 hours: $400
  • 6-9 hours: $700
  • 9+ hours: $1000

For small airlines, the amounts are:

  • 3-6 hours: $125
  • 6-9 hours: $250
  • 9+ hours: $500

Travellers would have up to one year to file a compensation claim. Under the original proposed rules, consumers had only 120 days.

If a flight is delayed for any reason, airlines will be required to tell passengers why their flight has been delayed as soon as feasible.

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Then, every 30 minutes, the airline would be required to update information on the status of the flight, including through an “an audible announcement, a visible announcement” and by email or text message, depending on how the passenger asked to be reached.

The rules spell out what travellers are entitled to receive if the flight is overbooked.

Airlines are required to ask for volunteers to give up their seat and “put in writing for them the benefits agreed to prior to the departure of the flight.”

The minimum levels of compensation are:

  • 0-6 hour delay: $900
  • 6-9 hour delay: $1,800
  • 9+ hour delay: $2,400

An airline would be required to issue compensation at the time a passenger is advised of the denied boarding.

The airline must also rebook customers free of charge and provide “the same standards of treatment” as it would with flight delays and cancellations.

Compensation would only be available to passengers in situations that are within an airline’s control, which includes overbooking and scheduled maintenance of aircraft to comply with legal requirements.

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For lost and damaged baggage, airlines must compensate up to $2,100 for international travel, based on the Montreal Convention air treaty.

The new rules would require airlines also to pay up to $2,100 for lost or damaged baggage on domestic flights.

WATCH: Coverage of flight delay woes across Canada on Global News

If baggage was lost, a passenger must file a claim within 21 days. If baggage is damaged, the report must be filed within seven days.

However, Gabor Lukacs, founder of not-for-profit advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, doesn’t believe the new rules will be enough to satisfy critics.

“What we have here is regulations that was written by the airlines, for the airlines,” he said.

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Lukacs compares the new rules with air passenger regulations in Europe, stating “what we get here is comparably worse to the European gold standard.”

“In Europe, if your flight is delayed or cancelled for maintenance issues, the airline has to pay, no excuses,” he said.

—With files from Alvin Yu

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