Air Passenger Protection regulations partially come into force

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MONTREAL – The much-awaited federal air passenger protection regulations (APPR) come into effect, at least partially.

Flight Claim, who since 2016 has actively advocated for better passenger treatment, more transparency of information, more accountability for airlines and increased consistency for damages paid to adversely affected consumers, gladly welcomes this development. The APPR includes various provisions to improve airline supervision and better protect travellers. That said, some passengers will have to be patient and wait until December for their compensation and there still remain significant gaps in the clarity of the text. Hundreds of airlines, including Air Canada, are also outright challenging the regulations, refusing to increase the compensation they offer for delays and lost baggage.

MORE TRANSPARENTLY SHARED INFORMATION – Now, airlines must provide information on the treatment of passengers, minimum compensation and possible recourse against the carrier in cases of delays, cancellations, denied boarding or lost baggage “in simple, clear and concise language” on any platforms and in any documents that the carrier uses to sell tickets or on which the passenger’s itinerary appears, while taking into account the needs of people with disabilities. Carriers operating flights to or from an airport in Canada must always display a notice in key areas of the airport informing customers that they may be entitled to certain benefits or compensation in the previously mentioned cases. Lastly, in the case of a delay, carriers must provide status updates to passengers every 30 minutes and communicate “any new information as soon as feasible.”

INCREASED ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CARRIERS – In addition to passengers’ right to clear information on their rights and possible recourse, the APPR also provides standardized rules for the treatment of adversely affected passengers. For example, if a flight is delayed on the tarmac, carriers must provide passengers with decent waiting conditions, including proper temperature control in the aircraft and access to food and drink, urgent medical assistance and if possible, a means of communication, all free of charge. Passengers must also have the opportunity to disembark after being delayed on the tarmac for over three hours. Lastly, passengers denied boarding due to overbooking can now be entitled to compensation between $900 and $2,400 depending on the delay, and passengers whose baggage has been lost or damaged can receive up to $2,100 in compensation.

ADDITIONAL DELAYS AND AMBIGUITY – It should however be noted that although Minister of Transport Marc Garneau ensured in April that the APPR would come into effect on July 1, the airlines’ obligations for delays on the tarmac and denied boarding only apply as of mid-July. Passengers must also note that they will have to wait at least six months, until December 15, to claim compensation or be provided alternative arrangements in the case of delayed or cancelled flights, even if the carrier is at fault.

Furthermore, despite the CTA’s best efforts, it will not be able to clearly and fairly determine exactly what constitutes a situation “within the carrier’s control.” Airlines understandably cannot be held responsible for acts of sabotage or medical emergencies, yet there are other circumstances listed as outside of carriers’ control in the APPR that raise serious questions, such as labour disruptions and manufacturing defects in an aircraft. The list is also non-exhaustive—a gap that airlines will use to their advantage to the detriment of air passengers.

Lastly, the regulations provide for some application exceptions and limitations that remain unclear, especially in the event of tarmac delays, creating a legal grey area that carriers will not hesitate to exploit to evade their responsibility toward travellers.