A new “Passenger Bill of Rights” is en route

The rights of air passengers in Canada are soon to be enhanced.  After several revisions and hours of Parliamentary debate, the Federal government enacted the Transportation Modernization Act on May 23, 2018.  As part of this new statute, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has been given a mandate to develop regulations for airlines’ obligations to air passengers.  The CTA has now opened a consultation process to receive input on the development of these regulations and to establish clear standards of treatment and consistent compensation for air travellers under certain circumstances.

The Transportation Modernization Act amends the Canada Transportation Act to give the CTA authority to make regulations defining the airlines’ minimum obligations to passengers with respect to a broad range of issues including:

  • the communication of passengers’ rights and recourse options;
  • flight delays and cancellations;
  • denied boarding including bumping;
  • tarmac delays of three hours or more;
  • lost or damaged baggage;
  • the seating of children under the age of 14 years; and
  • the development of terms and conditions of carriage on the transportation of musical instruments.

The CTA is seeking input by holding in-person sessions, collecting questionnaires and receiving written submissions.  The CTA is intent on moving forward quickly with the process. The scheduling of the in-person sessions was abbreviated with single day in-person sessions across the country occurring between mid-June and early July.  Interested parties may also complete questionnaires and provide written submissions.  The CTA has published a Discussion Paper on Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which provides a framework for the consultation process and its objectives.  The consultation process is to remain open only until August 28, 2018.  The draft regulations will likely be published before the end of the year.

The regulations created by the CTA will be in relation to flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.  Therefore, they will apply to both foreign and domestic carriers.  However, at this time it has yet to be determined whether specific requirements set out in the new regulations will apply to some rather than all airlines.  As part of the process, the CTA will consider regulations which exist in the US and EU.  In those jurisdictions, some passenger protection requirements are differentiated by the type of airline, type of aircraft and aircraft operations.  Similar differences are expected for Canadian airlines.

When the new air passenger protection regulations come into effect, airlines will be required to comply.  Passengers who believe the airline has not followed its obligations will continue to have the option of filing a complaint with the CTA. If the CTA finds that the airline has not followed its obligations, the CTA may take corrective measures, including ordering the airline to compensate its passenger and/or issuing monetary penalties.  The CTA has indicated that it intends to provide protections and levels of compensation which are world leading.  Stay tuned for updates once the regulations are published.