Updated: Sep 28
The last phase of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations in Canada are in affect with compensation rules for flight delays and cancellations, yet critics claim these new rules only serve to protect the airlines and not the passengers.
Liberal Transport Minister Marc Garneau reminded travellers that new rules for delayed or cancelled flights will kick in on December 14, 2019.
The first set of passenger rights rules were announced in July, and address issues like overbooking, tarmac delays and compensation for lost luggage.
The first set of new passenger right rules resulted in nearly zero compensation from airlines as there were many loopholes in the process for airlines to wiggle out of. And even with enforcement, the airlines refused to pay leaving passengers without any further means of compensation.
Likewise, the new rules introduced by the Liberal Government of Canada are very loose and critics claim they only are designed to make passengers feel good and gain political points, but ultimately are there to protect the airlines.
The new payout scheme revolves around flight delays and is based on how long a passenger is delayed before arriving at their final destination. A large airline will have to pay a passenger $400 for delays between 3 - 6 hours and up to $1,000 if the flight is stalled more than 9 hours.
But there is catch.
The airlines are off the hook if the delay is due to weather, which is understandable.
However, another rule says the airline cannot be held responsible if it is a mechanical or service problem.
And airlines know this trick very well. For years they have been using the "mechanical issue" excuse when they are low on staff, have no pilot or have other issues. The mechanical issue works in their favour because this excuse sounds reasonable. No one wants to fly with a broken plane or a plane that has missed service and passengers then accept this excuse as one that is benefiting them.
And airlines also know that under the new rules they don't have to pay any compensation if they use this excuse. And it gets better, they don't have to prove they had any mechanical issues that resulted in a delay - they just have to say it and they are off the hook. A pilot is too drunk to fly a plane? No worries. It was a mechanical issue, sorry for the delay.
Airlines will have to start providing food and drink and means of communication, like free Wi-Fi after a 2 hour delay. If the delay is more than 24 hours, the airlines are on the hook to pay passengers' hotel or other comparable accommodations.
But who pays and when? And what hotel is acceptable? None of these questions have any answers and passengers as well as airlines are just as confused.
If you pay for your own hotel, good luck in getting the airline to compensate you after ward.
In addition, most Canadian airports have free wifi and hotels also offer the same, so this is like giving away something for free, that is already free. The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, claims this is the "...the best in the world."
The airline also has to ensure passengers reach their final destination. Again, this is not clear as there is no rules for timeline or mode of transportation. They could sit you on a bus and send you across country. Who knows?!
The new rules also stipulate that airlines have to, at no extra cost, help seat children under age 14 near their parent, guardian or tutor. Again, this is a very vague rule as they just have to "help you" and not actually perform this duty.
If you are feeling let down by the Passenger Bill of Rights in Canada, you are not alone.
Many passengers who have flown Sunwing Airlines to tourists destinations have experienced delays of up to 48 hours, abandoned at airports, lost luggage, disastrous vacations and horrible customer service only to be compensated with a voucher worth $50 toward another $3000 vacation.
In fact, Sunwing Airlines has the lowest score for on time flights and has the lowest review score for nearly all airlines across the world on various platforms. And for those that did complain and seek compensation, they have been ignored.
Reputable travel agents indicate that nothing will change with these new rules and airlines like Sunwing Vacations will simply ignore them or use the loopholes to wiggle out of any and all compensations.
Canada, overall ranks on the low end when it comes to airline performance. The countries best performer is Westjet ranking 57th in the world with 77.1% of flights arriving on time.
The countries worst performer was Sunwing, ranking the second worst airline in the world with only 57.8% flights arriving on time.
And to further aggravate the passenger, Canadian airports are rated as nearly the worst in the world. The best airport in Canada is in Grand Prairie, Alberta ranking 105th out of 505 airports. The countries largest airports in Toronto rank among the worst in the world at 475th and 489th.
Now you may argue that Canada has a harsh climate and that is why there are numerous flight delays and mechanical issues but no one can explain why Alaskan Airlines flying in the same harsh conditions, if not worse, has a 80.7% on time flight percentage and ranks 3rd overall in the US.
But wait there is more...
It will be up to you, the passenger, on vacation, to chase down your compensation. There is no doubt the airline will ignore you and the government suggests you contact the federal regulator The Canadian Transportation Authority (CTA), who, according to critics, is pretty cozy with the airlines.
Here, you will have to prove to the regulator that the delay was caused by something other than weather or mechanical issues. How do you do that? Do you have access to the records kept by the airline for such issues? Can you inspect the planes? It is an absolutely ridiculous mission that you cannot achieve and thus, your complaint will go into the trash bin.
If you want to learn more about the new passenger bill of rights I suggest you visit www.airpassengerrights.ca to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself. There you will find up-to-date articles and information regarding your rights and how to pressure the government for a fair and honest passenger bill of rights.
One of the things I always remind people of is to protect themselves and to purchase travel insurance. The inexpensive travel insurance covers absolutely everything from lost or damaged luggage, to flight delays to medical emergencies. You won't have to deal with airlines who ignore you, or federal regulators who task you to find evidence. You will be treated fairly and honestly and without delay.
I have been using World Nomads for my travel insurance for flights and vacations for many years. Their prices are the lowest in the industry, yet they provide the best service and compensation is fair and quick.
If you are flying out and you feel the new Canadian Passenger Bill of Rights does not protect you use the form below for an instant online quote and protect yourself: