Updated air passenger rights protections in effect

Daniel Fowler
July 16, 2019

The first phase of the so-called passenger bill of rights goes into force Monday.

Carriers are required to clearly inform passengers of their rights and possible recourse opportunities, as well as provide regular updates in the case of delays or cancellations.

The new regulations will be launched in two phases, with some regulations coming into effect on July 15, while others will not be lawful until December 15.

Passenger rights advocates say the rules do not go far enough, arguing the criteria for monetary compensation are hard for passengers to meet as they would have to present evidence that is typically in the hands of an airline. Passengers will be able to deal directly with the airline to file a complaint. It's $1,800 for between six and nine hours, and $2,400 for a delay longer than nine hours.

Some of the government's new air passenger protection regulations take effect this week, but anyone hoping for compensation for delayed or cancelled flights will have to wait until the end of the year.

The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Regardless of what happens with the legal case, the airlines have largely avoided the same kind of regime as Europe's, which offers more protections for passengers.

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The new rules have been met with blowback from both industry and consumer advocates.

Airlines will have to compensate anyone who is denied boarding for situations within an airline's control, such as over-booking. "They have excuses", she said of airlines.

Musical instruments will be allowed on flights, either as checked or carry-on baggage, but airlines will have to create policies detailing size restrictions, cabin-storage options, and transportation fees.

A new compensation structure takes effect for any passenger whose flight is delayed or cancelled. If rebooking doesn't meet a passenger's travel needs - if they no longer need to fly, for instance, because they've missed what they were flying for - they can get a refund and an extra $400 from large airlines, and $125 from small carriers.

Children under age five will have to be seated next to a parent or guardian at no extra cost.

A second batch of rules, set to roll out in December, imposes no obligation on airlines to pay customers for delays or cancellations if they were caused by mechanical problems discovered in a pre-flight check - walking around the aircraft before takeoff looking for defects - rather than during scheduled maintenance - more thorough inspections required after 100 hours cumulatively in the air.

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