Canadian travellers know little about new air passenger rights, poll suggests

Click to play video 'New passenger rights kick in this weekend' New passenger rights kick in this weekend
WATCH: The final set of passenger-rights rules take effect this weekend just as Canada enters a busy travel season. But as Alicia Draus reports, there is criticism that the government’s new rules favour the airlines over passengers – Dec 13, 2019

New polling results suggest many people boarding flights this holiday season don’t know about the Liberal government’s new regime outlining air passengers’ rights.

A Canadian Automobile Association-commissioned poll being made public Friday found that just over half of respondents said they hadn’t heard or read anything about the rules aiming to protect flyers caught in travel nightmares.

The Leger poll of 1,517 respondents was conducted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, but can’t be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

READ MORE: Payouts for flight delays coming soon to Canada: Here’s what to know

The first set of passenger-rights rules landed in mid-July and required airlines to compensate and respond to tarmac delays, denied boardings and lost or damaged luggage.

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The final set of rules take effect this weekend and will require airlines to seat parents beside or near their children at no extra cost, and compensate flyers for delays and cancellations within an airline’s control.

The rules set out minimum standards for all carriers to follow and requirements to help the travelling public understand their rights, but rely on travellers filing complaints with airlines or, as a last resort, the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Click to play video 'Garneau outlines changes for phase 1 of air passenger bill of rights' Garneau outlines changes for phase 1 of air passenger bill of rights
Garneau outlines changes for phase 1 of air passenger bill of rights – Jul 15, 2019

Six months into the new regime, it isn’t clear how well things have worked because data about complaints rests with air carriers and isn’t yet public, said Ian Jack, CAA’s managing director of government relations.

The poll result raises questions about how the remaining rules set to come into force will fare, he said.

LISTEN: Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss what the new rules will mean for air travel customers

“We clearly need a lot more public education on this so that people actually understand they’ve got these rights and that they start understanding how to exercise them,” Jack said.

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“In order to get your rights, you need to know about them. So clearly the government and the carriers need to do a better job of letting people know about this new regime or it’s simply not going to work.”

READ MORE: Canadian airlines hit with $45K in fines in first crackdown under passenger bill of rights

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is scheduled to discuss the introduction of the new set of rules during an event this morning at Ottawa’s airport.

Garneau hosted a similar event in the spring ahead of the first wave of rules in July, at which he said the rules and timelines aim to strike a balance between being fair to passengers and to air carriers.

Click to play video 'Swoop Airline cancels flight, makes passengers wait 11 days for return trip' Swoop Airline cancels flight, makes passengers wait 11 days for return trip
Swoop Airline cancels flight, makes passengers wait 11 days for return trip – Aug 28, 2019

The rules around cancellations were, in Garneau’s words at the time, “more complex,” which required a longer runway for airlines to set up new policies.

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Air Canada and Porter Airlines, as well as 15 other carriers and two industry groups, launched a legal challenge to the new rules over the summer, arguing the regulations exceeded the Canadian Transportation Agency’s authority.

The legal challenge is currently before the Federal Court of Appeal.

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