Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Tue March 08 2016

Should Canada Create A US-Style Passenger Bill of Rights?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | March 08, 2016

Should Canada Create A US-Style Passenger Bill of Rights?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

There could be some major changes in the near future concerning the way Canada’s air travel industry is regulated. A panel of experts commissioned by the previous government has reviewed Canada’s Transportation Act, which governs the air travel industry. 

The findings were hardly flattering, and a report presented to Ottawa by the panel suggests, among other things, that the government should consider creating a "passenger bill of rights" similar to the one adopted by the United States in 2009 and 2011.

Following the lead of the United States and Europe

The panel's report held up the U.S. rules as an example because they create strict and well-defined guidelines that are meant to guarantee passengers’ rights when it comes to things like tarmac delays, rebooking after cancelations and payment for lost baggage. Airlines face stiff fines if they don’t live up to their end of the bargain. However, they know exactly what is expected of them.

Europe has a similar set of regulations, with passengers guaranteed a payout if their flight is delayed for more than a set period of time and the airline is found at fault for the delay. Canada has no such rules in place. The panel suggests that this hurts everyone. Passengers rights are not guaranteed and airlines do not have a well defined list of rules that they know they have to follow. 

READ MORE: What Are Passengers’ Rights in the Event of an Airline Strike?

Canadian airlines already follow strict guidelines when they fly to the U.S

One of the ironies is that the United States expanded the passenger bill of rights in 2011 to include international airlines operating within the country. This means that Canadian carriers have to abide by them when they fly to the U.S., but not when they are on the northern side of the border.

The report contends that this is a glaring difference between air travel in the two countries, and it is something that has to be changed if the domestic market is to stay on par with the rest of the world: “The result is an unusual situation where Canadian air travellers benefit from strong and codified consumer protections when travelling abroad, even while flying with Canadian air carriers…. Canadians travellers deserve similar levels of treatment when travelling within Canada as they do across the border.”

No movement yet from Canadian authorities

Having a clearly defined set of rules for the commercial aviation industry will be practical for the government as well. Now, they deal with passenger complaints on a case-by-case basis. This means that certain issues come up again and again, so the process of addressing complaints is very time consuming. 

As of now, Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, is not commenting on the report, though his office has said that he will consult with relevant ministers and industry representatives about the issues highlighted by the report. The government that created the panel and commissioned the study is no longer in power, but it is unclear if that will have any bearing on the eventual response to the report. 

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