Top News

EDITORIAL: New rules lift off

Industry watchers warn that air travel could get more costly given recent business acquisitions and the lessening of competition. —
New rights for airline passengers took effect July 15. — 123RF Stock photo

If you’re flying, it’s now a whole new world.

Monday, new rules for airlines came into force, giving passengers some much needed clout.

For years, airlines have been able to overbook flights to ensure their airplanes took off with as many full seats as possible — even if that meant they were essentially selling seats under false pretenses, because they were selling a product they didn’t even have.

Those same airlines were able to make their own decisions about which passengers would be left behind — meaning, usually, that infrequent travellers on less expensive tickets (for that, you can read “less profitable customers”) got the hook.

Passengers could find themselves left on delayed planes without explanation, and be left waiting in airports as important time ticked away, meaning the chance of missed connections.

But the new rules will make callous or careless treatment of passengers very expensive for airlines.

Passengers whose luggage disappears along the way will also see hikes in the maximums that airlines have to pay out — up to $2,400.

The first round of rule changes — a second will come in Dec. 15 — will see passengers get $900 for being bumped from a flight. That’s if they’re delayed for six hours or less. A six- to nine-hour delay? Well, then the compensation would be $1,800. After nine hours, it’s $2,400.

Now, a swift kick to the bottom line is a quick way to get the airlines to pay attention — and to deliver what they’ve sold passengers.

There are also new rules about just how long passengers can be kept cooped up in aircraft, what services they have to be given during delays, and how much information they have to be given when their flights are delayed.

Passengers whose luggage disappears along the way will also see hikes in the maximums that airlines have to pay out — up to $2,400.

The next round of rules will institute cash penalties for delayed or cancelled flights, but only when those delays and cancellations are the fault of the airline.

You could say the new rules are a burden on an industry with tight margins and a whole host of variable expenses and concerns.

That might be true.

But the simple fact is that the airlines are the architects of their own misfortune here.

The reason that passengers had to be protected by federal rules is because the airlines themselves have shown no interest in doing anything to address behaviour that has been to their own financial benefit for far too long.

The airlines could have stepped in and given customers a carrot long ago — maybe by limiting or getting rid of overbooking, maybe by being more responsive to complaints.

They chose not to do that.

So, instead — and at long last — the federal government stepped in with a stick.

No doubt passengers will be delighted to have the rules on their side for a change.

Recent Stories