Canada Moves To Strenghten Air Passenger Protections

Transport minister, Omar Alghabra announced details of proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act that will strengthen Canada’s passenger rights regime.

Noting that protecting the rights of air passengers is a priority of the Canadian government and it will continue to ensure that travellers’ rights are respected by airlines when air travel does not go according to plan.

Introduced as part of Bill C-47, the Budget Implementation Act, the proposed amendments would strengthen Canada’s passenger rights regime, streamline the processes for administering air travel complaints before the Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency), and increase air carriers’ accountability.

In 2019, for the first time in Canadian history, an air passenger rights regime, called the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) was implemented.

The regulations clarified minimum requirements and compensation. During the pandemic, the government strengthened these rights to include refunds for cancellations and long delays in situations outside the airline’s control, including major weather events or a pandemic.

Transport minister Alghabra said: “It is clear that a stronger and simpler system is needed to increase air carriers’ accountability and transparency, reduce the number of incidents referred to the Agency, and streamline the Agency’s processes for addressing travel complaints.”

And he continued: “The proposed amendments would significantly enhance our air passenger rights regime to ensure travellers get the services and treatment they pay for and deserve.”

The proposed new amendments to the Canada Transportation Act would, among other things, allow the Agency to modify its regulations to:

* Make compensation mandatory for all disruptions, unless the disruption was caused by very limited circumstances that would be specifically defined by regulations;

  • Remove exemptions to air carriers’ compensation obligations based on broad categories of disruptions (e.g., disruptions outside/within the control of airlines or required for safety);
  • Make standards of treatment, such as the provision of food and water, mandatory for all flight disruptions;
  • Establish requirements for delayed baggage and prescribe parameters around refund requirements as a result of a travel advisory issued by the government.

The amendments would also:

  • Replace the current process for resolving air travel complaints, which includes an adjudication process by Governor in Council-appointed members, with a more simplified process conducted primarily by Agency staff to ensure travellers get quicker decisions;
  • Impose a greater burden of proof on air carriers where it is presumed that compensation is payable to a complainant, unless the air carrier proves the contrary;
  • Require air carriers to establish an internal process for dealing with air travel claims;
  • Broaden the authority of the Agency to set fees and charges to recover its costs; and
  • Enhance the Agency’s enforcement powers with respect to the air transportation sector by allowing the Agency to increase the maximum amount of Administrative Monetary Penalties applicable to the APPR for corporations and by providing the Agency with the authority to enter into compliance agreements with air carriers.

Following royal assent of the Budget Implementation Act, the Agency would have the authority to initiate the regulatory process to amend the APPR in consultation with the Minister of Transport.

New regulations are expected to be in place at the earliest opportunity.

As of Sept. 30, 2023, or if it is later, as of the day on which the Budget Implementation Act receives royal assent, the Agency would begin to resolve complaints through the new complaint resolution process.

Together with the $75.9 million over three years previously announced for the Agency to help reduce the backlog of complaints, these measures would help ensure that if events similar to those of last summer and over the holiday season occur, passengers are treated fairly, and the carriers meet their obligations swiftly.