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New federal airline rules enhance passengers’ rights

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Flynally.

After years of airline passengers paying out of pocket for airlines’ delays and mistakes, the federal government has offered a glimmer of hope: new air passenger protection regulations. The aim is to ensure that customers are treated fairly throughout their journeys, level the playing field, and foster consumer confidence in airlines, according to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The regulations will roll out two phases, and will apply to all flights departing or landing at Canadian airports. Expect the following:

  • Journey disruptions: In the event of a disruption, airlines must ensure that each passenger’s itinerary is complete, whether or not the airline was responsible for the disruption. If the airline has a delay longer than 9 hours and cannot rebook a passenger on their own flight, it is now the airline’s duty to rebook the passenger on a competing airline.
  • Compensation for delays: If a disruption is within the airline’s control (for example, because of overbooking or flight cancellations), it will have to compensate passengers in addition to completing their itineraries. Compensation will depend on the length of the delay and the size of the airline. If the trip is deemed useless by the passenger, the airline will be required to refund the trip along with the financial compensation.
  • Guaranteeing the basics: Airlines will have to ensure that passengers have access to working toilets, that the aircraft has sufficient ventilation, that food and drinks are provided, and that passengers can communicate with people outside the plane free of charge.
  • Keeping families together (on the plane): Airlines will be required to seat children under 13 no more than one row away from their parent or guardian.

Airlines that fail to follow the rules face a $25,000 fine from the Canadian Transportation Agency. There are time limits in which travellers must make their compensation claims.

These changes will be nothing new to major airlines. The European Union implemented similar regulations 15 years ago. (So long ago, in fact, that the regulation provides for complimentary telex and fax messages!)