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Minister says expect to changes to passenger bill of rights

While the Minister of Transportation did not confirm what those changes will be, he did state that they could be regulatory, legislative or both.
Stock photo.

Expect to see the airline passenger bill of rights strengthened to support both airports and passengers, confirmed the Minister of Transportation early Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra was questioned by reporters at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Hamilton about the growing frustration from passengers following major travel disruptions at airports across the country that have lingered since last spring.

“Stay tuned. You’re going to see the new proposal during the spring session. Our legislation is stronger than our closest competitor, the United States,” said the minister, adding that they have identified areas of improvement and are working on them.

As passengers returned to airports following the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in countries across the world in the fall of 2022, a high number were greeted with cancellations or delays.

What followed were stories being shared across social media and news outlets about the influx of passengers being denied compensation for those disrupted flights, highlighting that Canada’s airline passenger bill of rights fell short in protecting Canadian travellers.

The Canadian Transport Authority responded by implementing a change that came into effect in September 2022, stating that airlines are now required to rebook a passenger affected by a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to a situation outside the airline’s control on a flight leaving within 48 hours of the departure time indicated on the passenger’s original ticket.

If the airline cannot provide a confirmed reservation for a flight leaving within this 48-hour period, it will be required to provide, at the passenger’s choice, a refund or re-booking.

But consumer advocate Gabor Lukas responded to the CTA’s announcement by stressing that these changes would do little to assist Canadian passengers, still leaving them vulnerable, mainly those expecting to travel for short-time periods.

And that it did.

While a winter storm led to flight cancellations leading into the Christmas holidays, leaving hundreds of passengers standard in locations like Mexico and the Caribbean, many customers complained of communication issues from the airlines.

Including lost luggage and technical problems resulting in planes returning home with empty seats as passengers remained grounded or paid hundreds of dollars to return with a different airline. Many are still working on obtaining compensation.

This has since opened the door for discussion on how the airline industry can improve its service and communication during bad but expected weather conditions, including what the government can do to better protect Canadian travellers from future flight disruptions.

While the Minister of Transportation did not confirm what those changes will be, he did state that they could be regulatory, legislative or both.

“We are looking at what tools we need to strengthen the passenger bill of rights,” he said.

“Our government is getting things done. Stay tuned. You’ll see action. You’ll see new tools being introduced. I feel the frustration of Canadians.”

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