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CTA rules for increased passenger rights

In five separate decisions released yesterday (June 28), the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ruled on the reasonableness of international tariff provisions of Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, and domestic tariff provisions of Air Canada and WestJet relating to the overbooking, cancellation, delay and rerouting of flights. According to officials, passengers should be able to fully understand their rights and the remedies available to them simply by reading the tariff — the contract between the carrier and the passenger. When considering the reasonableness of a carrier’s tariff, the Agency “strikes a balance between the rights of passengers to be subject to reasonable terms and conditions of carriage and the carrier’s statutory, commercial and operational obligations.”In these latest decisions, the Agency considered what measures were reasonable for carriers to take when the overbooking and cancellation of flights are within their control. Prior to these decisions, the tariffs of the three air carriers were more restrictive with regards to passenger rights. For example, when flights were overbooked or cancelled, the options for rebooking as well as choice for a refund versus rebooking was at the discretion of the carrier. As for situations in which a refund was warranted, the tariffs only provided for a refund of the unused portion of the tickets. Yesterday’s decisions increase the rights and remedies for passengers travelling with Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat. In the event a flight is delayed, overbooked or cancelled, passengers can now choose whether they prefer a refund or to be rebooked. In certain cases, carriers must consider rebooking passengers on the first available flight(s), including flights with non-partnered carriers. If overbooking or cancellation of a flight results in the passengers choosing to no longer travel, they will be entitled to a return flight home within a reasonable time, free of charge, and a full refund of the ticket price. Although WestJet and Air Transat already filed proposed tariff amendments that meet most of these enhanced passenger rights, the Agency’s Decision Nos. 249-C-A-2012, 248-C-A-2012 and 252-C-A-2012 found that certain proposed amendments remain unclear or unreasonable. Both air carriers have until July 28 to revise their tariffs to incorporate the ordered tariff amendments set out in these decisions.

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