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Air Passenger Rights and Recourse at a Glance

March 18, 2014 Aviation No Comments Email Email

With the onset of the March Break and World Consumer Right’s Day on March 15, the Canadian Transportation Agency is reminding passengers about their rights, responsibilities and recourse if they encounter problems when travelling.

In Canada, air passenger rights and responsibilities are set out in the terms and conditions of carriage (contract) included in airline tariffs. Although provisions dealing with delays and denied boarding can vary from airline to airline, they have to adhere to certain legislative requirements. This is why it is so important for air passengers to consult airline tariff provisions in order to know their rights and responsibilities. By law, all airlines operating air services to, from or within Canada are required to make their tariffs available to the public at their business office and on their websites when used for selling air transportation.

When preparing to travel, passengers could avoid unfortunate surprises if they were to follow these simple rules:

  • Check in early – consult your airline’s check-in and boarding gate arrival provisions;eGlobal Media-ÃÇÁ
  • Know your fare rules – print them and carry them with you;
  • Find out about your airline’s baggage limits – verify carry-on and checked baggage allowances;
  • Call ahead for any special needs – at least 48 hours prior to departure;
  • Be sure to have the proper travel documents – passport, visas, vaccination certificates, etc; and
  • Pack smart – always carry essential and valuable items with you on board – travel documents, medication, medical devices, money, jewelry, electronic equipment, etc.

When problems arise during air travel, most issues are often resolved directly with the airline. When passengers are not satisfied with how an airline has tried to address their complaint, the Agency can assist passengers through informal (facilitation and mediation) or formal (adjudication) dispute resolution services.

The Agency can address complaints about terms and conditions contained in the airline’s tariff – its contract with passengers. Typical complaints that the Agency can address are about:

  • claims for delayed, lost or damaged baggage or shipped goods (including animals);
  • baggage charges and size limits;
  • flight  delays and cancellations or missed connections;
  • schedule changes made before or after departure;
  • cancelled reservations;
  • ticket restrictions (refunds, transfers, advance purchase or minimum/maximum stay requirements)
  • airline charges and fees;
  • denied boarding (for example, due to overbooking or equipment downgrade);
  • refusal to transport (because of late check in or because of missing travel documents);
  • refund requests;
  • loyalty programs if they are owned by the airline (this excludes Aeroplan® and Air Miles®, which are independent).

The Agency cannot address complaints about aircraft safety or security, which are the responsibility of Transport Canada. Additionally, the Agency does not have the authority to deal with complaints about the level or quality of customer service provided by an air airline (for example, the quality of food or the behaviour or attitude of the crew members). If passengers have complaints about such matters, they should be sent directly to the airline.

Important Facts

In the past years, the Agency has issued decisions that clarified or strengthened the rights of passengers, including persons with disabilities, travelling with specific airlines.

Orders, including remedies in Agency decisions apply only to the airline named in the decision. However, other airlines may voluntarily choose to apply the orders. Typically, Agency orders are effective the date established in the Agency decision and are not applied retroactively.

“The busy March travel season and World Consumer Rights Day on the 15th are an excellent opportunity to remind passengers of their rights and recourse when travelling by air,” said Geoff Hare, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency. “Passengers should consult airline tariffs, plan ahead and prepare accordingly, to help ensure they have a smooth travel experience.”

Associated Links
Fly Smart, a guide to air travel in Canada
Backgrounder – A resourceful outlet for air travellers

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