Air-travel passengers will soon have more options when their flights are delayed or cancelled, follow rulings by the Canadian Transportation Agency Friday.
The rulings stem from complaints made by air travel activist Gábor Lukács, who has campaigned for more accountability from Canadian airline companies.
Friday, in complaints against Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, the agency ruled that passengers must be allowed to choose whether to take a refund or a rebooking on a later flight when flights are delayed or cancelled due to circumstances under the carrier’s control.
Previously, airlines could decide whether to rebook the passenger or refund the ticket. In some cases, travellers can be booked on the next flight to their destination, even if the flight is with another carrier, at the airline’s expense. And if overbooking or cancellation of a flight prompts a passenger to cancel their trip, they will be entitled to a free return flight home, if necessary, and a refund of the ticket price.
Gerry Byrne, MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte who sponsored a private member’s motion calling for an “airline passenger bill of rights” in 2008, welcomed the news of the decisions Friday.
“I think they’re absolutely excellent,” he said, adding that airline carriers are being brought “kicking and screaming” to do what they’ve refused to do themselves.
“It’s quite predictable that the CTA would have ruled in this direction, and I say that because the international environment, the international airline industry regulatory environment, has been moving in this direction for the past number of years, in fact, almost two decades now. Canada has been an absolute laggard in protecting airline passengers’ rights as consumers.”
The decisions affect only those carriers because those were the airlines the complaints were made against, but Byrne says most airlines — Air Canada being an exception — do carry fairly strong consumer protection provisions already, and these rulings will help ensure that trend is followed.
“It’s pretty easy, relatively speaking, for WestJet to comply with these rulings, because by and large, without overgeneralizing, they actually offer advanced consumer protection standards,” he said. “Air Canada had to raise their own bar quite significantly over this.