New, 2019 Regulations provide more protection for air travellers.
As of July 15, 2019, airlines are required to meet new obligations concerning communication, denied boarding, tarmac delay, baggage and the transportation of musical instruments.
The new regulations apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.
This article is based on the information from the Travel Canada and Canadian Transportation Agency websites, that provide consumer protection for air passengers.
Here are main sources and references:
- The air travellers rights and airline obligations are set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.
- The airlines obligations in this area are listed in their tariffs.
- Specific obligations for international travel are set out in the Air Transportation Regulations
More protection for air travellers
Travellers have both rights and responsibilities:
- The airline’s tariff is the contract of carriage between you and your airline. It covers your rights and responsibilities as a passenger and your airline’s obligations to you.
- The contract of carriage must reflect all airline policies, including the obligations set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.
- These regulations apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. They impose minimum obligations that an airline must provide to its passengers in certain circumstances.
Your rights regarding some of the most common issues passengers experience are listed below.
Additional airline obligations will come into effect December 15, 2019.
Airlines must communicate clearly to you. They must:
- inform you of their policies on delays, cancellations, denied boarding, lost or damaged baggage and the seating of children in a simple, clear way;
- inform you about your rights and the remedies available;
- provide the reason for a flight disruption;
- provide regular status updates during delays; and
- make sure that communication is accessible to persons with disabilities.
Flight delays and cancellations
On December 15th a new set of airline obligations will come into force. You may be entitled to compensation such as a refund of the unused portion of your ticket, or out-of-pocket expenses. Please consult your airline’s tariffs for information relating to delays and cancellations.
Denied boarding (Bumping)
Airline obligations for denied boarding (bumping) are set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.
Denied boarding happens when there are fewer seats available on a flight than there are passengers who have checked in and arrived at the gate on time for boarding and are in possession of valid travel documentation.
Bumping does not include situations where a passenger must be refused transport for reasons such as not having a valid passport or arriving late at the gate.
Before bumping a passenger for a reason that is within their control, airlines must first seek volunteers.
If you volunteer to move to a later flight the airline must provide you with a written confirmation of the benefits that you accepted.
If they are unable to find a volunteer the airline must:
- follow a priority boarding list if a passenger must be bumped involuntarily. For example, persons with disabilities, families travelling together and unaccompanied minors would be considered last for bumping; and
- not remove passengers already on board, except for safety, security or health reasons.
If you are denied boarding (bumped) involuntarily
- If you are denied boarding (bumped) involuntarily and the reason is within the airline’s control but not safety-related, you are entitled to a specific standard of treatment, compensation, and rebooking or a refund.
- If you are bumped involuntarily and the reason is within the airline’s control and required for safety purposes, you are entitled to a specific standard of treatment and rebooking or a refund.
- If you are bumped involuntarily and the reason is outside of the airline’s control, you are entitled to rebooking.
Reasons within an airline’s control include:
- overbooking by the airline; or
- changes in plane size for commercial reasons or due to scheduled maintenance.
Airline obligations for tarmac delays are set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.
A tarmac delay at departure begins after the doors of the aircraft are closed for take-off. A tarmac delay on arrival begins after the flight has landed.
During all tarmac delays carriers must ensure passengers are given the following, free of charge:
- access to working washrooms;
- proper ventilation and heating or cooling;
- food and drink in reasonable quantities; and
- ways to communicate with people outside the plane, where feasible.
After a three-hour tarmac delay at a Canadian airport:
- The plane must return to the gate so that you can disembark, unless this is not possible, for safety, security, air traffic control or customs reasons.
- A plane can stay on the tarmac for up to 45 extra minutes if it is likely that it will take off within that period and the airline is able to continue providing the items listed above.
If a tarmac delay occurs after landing at a Canadian airport, a carrier must provide you an opportunity to disembark as soon as is feasible.
Refusal to transport
As a passenger you have responsibilities to ensure that you are not refused transport by an airline. You must:
- have appropriate and valid travel documents to enter a foreign country or to return to Canada;
- not behave in a way that interferes with the flight or puts the safety of passengers and crew at risk; and
- not miss the airline’s deadlines to:
- check in;
- complete the travel document verification process;
- register your baggage;
- pass through the security screening checkpoints; and
- arrive at the boarding gate
There may be additional reasons for refusal to transport please check the airline’s tariff.
To prevent this from happening you should:
- find out your airline’s check-in and boarding gate reporting deadlines;
- get to the airport well in advance, especially during peak travel periods, to avoid any road and security screening congestion problems.
Consult your airline’s tariff to learn more about their policies on refusal to transport.
Airlines sometimes charge fees in order for passengers to change their flight and travel dates. These extra costs are based on:
- the type of ticket purchased;
- the availability of new flights; and
- the cost of new flights plus applicable taxes and fees.
The availability of fares and flights continually changes. They are never guaranteed until you have paid in full.
Any time you buy an airline ticket, you should carefully review the details to ensure:
- Your name is spelled correctly and that it matches your passport and other travel documentation, which you will need to travel by air.
- The flight dates, times and destinations are correct.
A reservation is a record of the flights booked with your airline. Having a reservation does not automatically entitle the passenger to travel. When the airline receives payment, it issues a ticket linked to that reservation, which allows the passenger to travel.
Whether you made your reservation with a travel agency, tour operator or online with a web service (like Expedia, Travelocity etc.) you should carefully review the details of your reservations to ensure:
- your name is spelled correctly and that it matches your passport exactly;
- the flight dates, times and destinations are correct; and
- you have received an airline confirmation number for your booking (especially if you are booking with a third party).
Lost, damaged or delayed baggage
Airline obligations for lost, damaged or delayed baggage are set out in Montreal Convention and the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.
- If your bag is damaged or missing, contact your airline right away.
- You must submit a written claim with your airline within 7 days of receipt of your baggage if it is damaged.
- You must submit a claim within 21 days for baggage that is potentially lost.
NOTE: Failure to submit a claim within the set time limits could result in the carrier denying your claim.
- In the event your bag was lost, damaged or delayed, you may file a claim for the expenses you incurred up to approximately $2,100.
- In the event of a lost or damaged bag, the airline must also reimburse your checked baggage fees.
- Send your claim in writing to the airline within the time limits listed above. Be sure to include all out of pocket expenses.
All claims are subject to proof of loss.
Seating of children under 14 with parent or guardian
On December 15th a new set of airline obligations will come into force. At this time the airlines obligations in this area are listed in their tariffs.
There are currently no regulations prescribing obligations on the carrier with respect to the seating of children with their parent or guardian. Airlines will try to seat children close to their parent, tutor or guardian. We recommend you check in 24 hours in advance and get to the airport early to ask the airline for assistance.
Airline obligations in this area are listed in their tariffs. Specific obligations for international travel are set out in the Air Transportation Regulations
Some airlines accept unaccompanied children aged 5 to 11 years and will escort them from check-in through to their arrival at the destination airport (usually for a fee). Be sure to consult your airline’s terms and conditions before booking a flight for an unaccompanied minor.
For international travel, airlines must establish a policy for unaccompanied minors and prohibit minors under the age of five from travelling without their parent or an accompanying person who is at least 16 years old.
Transportation of Musical Instruments
Airline obligations for transportation of musical instruments are set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations. Airlines must include in their tariffs the terms and conditions of carriage regarding the transportation of musical instruments as checked or carry-on baggage. This includes:
- weight, size and quantity restrictions;
- cabin overhead bin or under seat storage options;
- options in the event of aircraft downgrading; and
- fees for transporting musical instruments.
Please consult your airline’s tariff for transporting musical instruments.
Persons with disabilities have a fundamental right to an accessible federal transportation network.
We can help with concerns and complaints related to the accessibility of:
- flights to, from, and within Canada, including connecting flights;
- rail, ferry and bus carriers that operate between provinces or territories or between Canada and the United States;
- airports, rail stations and ferry terminals located in Canada; or
- services integral to the transportation services provided by an airline or terminal located in Canada.
All-Inclusive Air Price Advertising
Advertising through any media must display air prices in an all-inclusive format for travel within or originating in Canada.
Air price advertising directed at the public must include:
- The total price, inclusive of all taxes, fees and charges which a consumer must pay to obtain the air service.
- A minimum level of description of the air service offered, including: the points of origin and destination; whether the service is one way or round trip; and limitations with respect to booking or travel availability periods.
- Access to a breakdown of the taxes, fees and charges and any optional services offered for a fee or charge.
Any concerns can be sent to the Agency at email@example.com.
File an air travel complaint