Mark Pestronk
Mark Pestronk

Q: I recently read that the Canadian government has adopted new protections for airline passengers. What do the new rules provide? When do they take effect?

A: On May 24, Canada formally adopted the Air Passenger Protection Regulations that it had proposed last December. Some parts of the rules take effect July 15, while other parts will be effective Dec. 15.

Before these rules were adopted, Canada had no denied-boarding compensation rules, tarmac-delay rules or other parameters that the DOT adopted years ago, so the new rules plugged the holes. However, the Canadian rules are, as you would expect, more favorable to the consumer.

For example, under the Canadian rules, when a flight is delayed on the tarmac for any length of time before takeoff or after landing, carriers must provide food and beverages, working lavatories and cooling and heating. The U.S. rules require amenities only after two hours of tarmac delay.

If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, the carrier must pay up to $2,400 Canadian dollars, equivalent to $1,819, whereas in the U.S. the maximum is now $1,350. For shorter flights and delays, compensation is lower, but the Canadian amounts are generally higher than the DOT requirements.

Under two rules that will take effect Dec. 15, passengers will be much better off in Canada than in the U.S. These rules deal with delays and seating families together. Under U.S. rules, no compensation or amenities whatsoever are due when domestic flights are delayed or canceled, and no U.S. rules require carriers to keep families together.

The Canadian rules will resemble those in the EU. For delays and cancellations that are within the carrier's control, such as crew scheduling, the airline must compensate passengers on a sliding scale up to $1,000.

For mechanical problems, the carrier must also provide food, drinks, means of communication and accommodations in the case of overnight delays.

For families traveling together, the carrier must provide a seat adjacent to a parent for children under age 5, a seat in the same row separated from a parent by no more than one seat for children 5 to 11 and separated by no more than one row for children 11 to 13.

In the words of the legislative mandate statute that enabled the adoption of the regulations, the new rules apply to "all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights." So the rules apply to U.S. carriers, including commuter flights.

Although there is no explanation of the term "connecting flights," I assume that if I fly on one ticket on United from Washington to Chicago and connect to Calgary on an Air Canada flight, the Canadian rules will apply to my domestic U.S. flight. That's a remarkable extension of jurisdiction by the Canadian government, and it remains to be seen if the carriers will obey the rule on domestic flights connecting to flights to Canada.

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