Canadian travellers who run into problems with their airlines will soon have another tool to seek compensation.
But the new Air Passenger Protection Regulations — the first phase of which take effect on Monday, July 15 — are already facing criticism from travellers’ advocates and from airlines.
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The new regulations are meant to help air passengers like newlyweds Jadwat Saleh and Houda Halwani, who spoke to Global News at the Abbotsford International Airport on Sunday.
“Last time, my wife and I were delayed for six, seven hours, and we got a $50 voucher as compensation,” said Saleh.
“My last trip, we lost a bag — actually it was damaged. We filed, we asked for everything, we got nothing. We didn’t even hear back from the airline, so it was pretty bad,” added Halwani.
Those stories will sound familiar to most travelling Canadians, who have likely run into at least one aggravating snag while flying.
On Monday, the first of the new regulations — covering compensation for being denied boarding (being bumped), delays on the apron and damaged luggage — come into force.
Under those rules, passengers bumped from boarding due to overbooking are entitled to $2,400 in compensation, and up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage.
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The remainder of the rules, which cover how much an airline must pay a traveller if their flight is delayed and specifying the level of service they’re eligible for, come into force on Dec. 15.
Under the December regulations, passengers held up between three and six hours stand to get $400, held for six to nine hours can get $700 and travellers delayed more than nine hours could get $1,000.
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But passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs, who is challenging the regulations in court, says the new rules “make things worse” for Canadians.
“The government is duping the public,” he told Global News.
Lukacs said under the new regulations, the amount of time a passenger can be held on the apron without disembarking has more than doubled from the current 90 minutes to three hours and 45 minutes.
He said passengers hoping to cash in on the hefty compensation for being bumped from a flight will also face trouble.
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“Proving that a flight is overbooked is virtually impossible without access to the airline’s reservation system,” said Lukacs.
Airlines — both Canadian and international — have also gone to court in a bid to quash the regulations.
Air Canada and Porter Airlines, along with 17 other applicants including the International Air Transport Association — which boasts 290 member airlines — claim the regulations violate international standards and should be rendered invalid.
In a court filing made in late June, the airlines say the regulations guarantee compensation without any reference to “actual damage suffered.”
Air Transport Association of Canada president and CEO John McKenna has previously called the compensation grid “very high” and the new rules “outrageous.”
Despite the early criticism, Saleh and Halwani told Global News they’re happy to see the regulations come into force.
“I think it’s great,” said Saleh. “We’ve needed this for a long time.”
“I’m hoping it will kick in and get some changes going,” added Halwani.
-With files from Sean O’Shea and Julia Foy