Canada Enhances Protections For Airline Passengers

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is enhancing the airline passenger rights charter to ensure that carriers do a better job or reimbursing passengers for cancelled or rescheduled flights.

New regulations that take effect on September 8 this year will require that airlines either refund passengers or rebook them, at the traveller's choice, if a flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, Canada’s transportation regulator announced.

Previously, the passenger rights charter only required refunds for flight disruptions that were within the airline's control, and the rules excluded situations ranging from bad weather to mechanical issues.

Thousands of Canadians have faced long delays and flight cancellations this year as airlines and customs agencies struggle with staff shortages and a surge in travel.

The new regulations require airlines to offer a rebooking or refund within 30 days if they cannot provide a new reservation within 48 hours of a flight cancellation or delay.

Any unused portion of a ticket must be covered, the regulator said. And a refund must be the same as the original payment method. That means a credit or debit card purchase cannot be reimbursed with a travel voucher as most Canadian airlines did for nearly a year during the pandemic.

Canada’s new regulations, while more stringent, still fall short of requirements in the U.S. and Europe. The European Union requires airlines to provide a plane seat within five hours of the initial departure — not 48 hours as in Canada — or a refund must be given.

In the EU and U.S., passengers must also be reimbursed for a flight cancellation within seven days rather than 30 days as in Canada.

The CTA acknowledged that its changes don't align with requirements in the EU or U.S., but said it accounts for the realities of the Canadian marketplace.