Canada – favourable changes in passengers’ rights regulations
A new legal act, Air Passenger Protection Regulations, became effective in Canada on 15 December. Thanks to it, passengers of all airlines traveling to, from and within Canada can expect better standards of care, quicker communication and larger compensation for canceled or delayed flights.
The scope of the new Canadian law is broader than that of its European counterpart. It accounts not only for delayed or canceled flights and denied boarding, but also for rights of passengers under the age of 14, compensation for lost or damaged baggage, fair advertising of air ticket prices, and even carriage of musical instruments.
NEW REGULATIONS IN FORCE FROM JULY 2019
The first stage of changes to the Canadian passenger protection law took effect on 15 July 2019 and involved provisions regarding communication. It imposes an obligation on carriers to inform passengers, promptly and in a comprehensive way, of their rights in case of flight delay or cancellation, denied boarding, as well as baggage loss or damage. The amendment also provided for assignment of such seats to children under 14 that enable contact with their guardian (in December, the regulation was clarified, mandating designation of a specific row/seat, depending on the age of a child).
When there is a delay, airlines must update passengers on the current status of the flight every half an hour until the new departure time is confirmed via an audible and visible announcement, as well as by email or text message. Airlines should also ensure that persons with disabilities have access to information in a suitable format (electronic, paper or, if necessary, Braille). In case of denied boarding due to overbooking, the airline should find a volunteer who gives up their seat and confirms in writing the arrangement of substitute benefits before the flight departs.
The compensation due to such volunteers depends on the length of the delay on arriving at their destination. Moreover, when passengers are waiting for the delayed take-off onboard an aircraft, they must have access to lavatories in working order, proper ventilation and cooling or heating, food and drink, as well as must have a possibility to communicate with people outside of the plane. When baggage is lost due to the carrier’s fault, the airline is liable to up to C$2,100 for domestic flights.
‘Many solutions implemented in Canada are based on European air passengers rights regulations. However, Canadian legislation guarantees a higher level of protection and a broader scope of rights. Finally, it imposes stricter obligations related to providing information than what is the law in the EU,’ says Kamila Szczygieł, an advocate from GIVT, a company specialised in obtaining compensation for delayed and canceled flights, as well as denied boarding.
STAGE TWO – LARGER COMPENSATIONS
Carriers were given 6 months to adjust and introduce new arrangements for passengers as necessitated by the law. The second stage of changes, effective as of 15 December, concerns mainly the minimum amount of compensation for flight delay or cancellation, calculated on the basis of the length of delay on arrival at the destination:
Alternative flight’s arrival after:
Amount of compensation
Compensation – large airline
Compensation – small airline
Less than 6 h
Over 9 h
Over 9 h
What is more, when the delay is of 2 hours and longer, the airline should provide passengers with food and drink and enable communication, e.g. by means of free Wi-Fi. If the take-off is rescheduled for the following day, the airline must provide free accommodation together with necessary transport.
When the delay exceeds 3 hours, the airline must provide the passenger with reservation for the next available flight. If the passenger gives it up voluntarily, they are entitled to have the ticket refunded, as well as to receive C$400 (for large carriers) and C$125 (for small carriers) in compensation. The period to claim compensation from an airline is one year from the date of departure. The carrier should respond to the complaint within 30 days.
‘It must be noted that compensation for flight disruption covered by both Canadian and EU regulations can be obtained only once – either under the Canadian or the European law,’ says Kamila Szczygieł, an advocate from GIVT.