Airlines want new rules about compensating passengers suspended, pending court appeal

Airlines want rules about compensating passengers suspended, pending court appeal
WATCH ABOVE: A group of airlines is going to court over Canada’s new Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which fully came into force Dec. 15. As Sean O’Shea reports, the airlines are asking a federal court to exempt them from paying penalties for issues like flight and baggage delays on international flights.

A group of Canadian and international airlines want new rules about compensation for flight delays and cancellations suspended until a court appeal is sorted out.

The appealing parties include but are not limited to airlines such as Porter, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Air France, Qatar Airways, Delta, and United, as well as the International Air Transport Association — a trade association representing close to 300 airlines.

Passenger bill of rights in Travel Tips
Passenger bill of rights in Travel Tips

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According to a motion filed in court, the airlines are asking for a stay on parts of the Airline Passenger Protection Regulations until a decision is made on their ongoing appeal.

“The moving parties hereby seek an order staying, until a final determination of the appeal, the operation of the Challenged International Payment Sections of the Regulations that unlawfully impose upon carriers the obligation to make payments to passengers,” the motion says. 

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Transport Canada told Global News that it is aware of the motion, but that “the regulations remain in effect.”

A spokesperson from the department also said the regulations were created so that Canadians know their rights, as well as ensuring that air carriers don’t face “undue burden or lose competitiveness.”

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs has previously said the regulations were not “meaningful.”

Lost luggage: What happens to your baggage after check-in
Lost luggage: What happens to your baggage after check-in

In an interview Friday, he called the motion to suspend payments for international flight delays and cancellations while the appeal moves through the court “the next logical step” for the airlines, since the appeal could take “several months, possibly years to get through the legal system.”

“The real question here that everybody should be watching is not what the airlines are doing, but what the government is doing,” Lukacs said.

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

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Phase one of the regulations, introduced in July 2019, focused on remedies for annoyances such as lost or damaged baggage, tarmac delays, and overbooking.

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It also obligated airlines to communicate more clearly with passengers during delays and cancellations.

READ MORE: Canada’s air passenger bill of rights: What travellers won’t see until December

Phase two of the regulations kicked in on Dec. 15, and focus on compensation for delays and cancellations including re-booking and refunds. An appeal challenging the validity of parts of the APPR was filed in July of this year.

The APPR means that if flight cancellations or delays are within an airline’s control and not related to safety, the airline would be obligated to compensate inconvenienced travelers.

Phase 2 of the Passenger Bill of Rights
Phase 2 of the Passenger Bill of Rights

Delays resulting from weather or mechanical issues are exempted.

The compensation amount depends on the size of airline (small or large) as well as the length of delay. For instance, a large airline would have to compensate passengers $400 for a three- to six-hour long delay. 

A spokesperson for the Canadian Transportation Agency said in an email that the CTA “will not comment on a matter before the courts.”

With files by Hannah Jackson, Sean O’Shea, The Canadian Press