Know Your Rights: the new Air Passenger Protection Regulations

New Air Passenger Protection Regulations for flight delays coming into effect on December 15, 2019

The second set of regulations under the Air Passenger Protection Act describing airline obligations in the event of flight disruptions (including flight cancellations and delays) from and to Canada come into effect on December 15, 2019. The regulations provided added protections to passengers including the following:  

  1. Communication

Under the regulations, airlines are required to keep passengers regularly informed in the event of a flight disruption (including flight and tarmac delays, flight cancellations and denials of boarding “bumping”). Airlines must inform passengers about the reason for the flight disruption as soon as is feasible through an audible announcement at the gate/airport, and, upon request, through a visible announcement and the available communication method the passenger has selected (e.g. email, SMS).

Updates must be provided every 30 minutes, or as soon as is feasible, until a new departure time has been confirmed.

In addition, airlines must provide passengers with information on the applicable standards of treatment and compensation, as well as their right to make a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

  • Minimum Levels of Compensation

Airlines are required to pay passengers compensation for flight delays or cancellations that are in their control and not related to safety. Delays or cancellations in the airline’s control (and not related to safety) include commercial overbooking; scheduled maintenance of an aircraft that is necessary to comply with legal requirements; or mechanical malfunction of the aircraft identified during scheduled maintenance.

The minimum levels of compensation are based on the length of delay at arrival at the final destination, and depend on whether the airline is a large or a small airline.

Large Airlines

Length of delay Amount (CAD)
3-6 hours $400
6-9 hours &700
9+ hours $1000

Small Airlines

Length of delay Amount (CAD)
3-6 hours $125
6-9 hours &250
9+ hours $500

Limitation Period

Passengers have one year to make a compensation claim with the airline that operated the disrupted flight. The airline has 30 days to respond by issuing a payment or indicating why it believes compensation is not owed.

Form of Compensation

Airlines will often try to offer passengers alternative forms of compensation (e.g., meal vouchers or rebates on future tickets), but passengers always have the right to select compensation in monetary form. As well, alternative forms of compensation offered have to be of higher value than the monetary compensation that is required, and can never expire.

Note however, that once a passenger has accepted an alternative form of compensation, the passenger would likely be precluded from claiming monetary compensation.

  • Standards of Treatment

The regulations establish minimum standards of treatment that airlines have to provide to passengers for delays at departure that are within their control, or within their control and required for safety purposes.

After a delay at departure of 2 hours, the airline operating the disrupted flight has to provide:

  • food and drink in reasonable quantities; and
  • a means of communication (e.g., free wifi).

If a passenger must wait overnight, airlines have to offer hotel or other comparable accommodation free of charge, as well as free transportation to the accommodation.

  • Rebooking – Same class of service and using a reasonable route

For all types of flight delays or cancellations, the airline operating the flight must ensure that passengers complete their itinerary (that is, reach their final destination).

When a flight is cancelled, or once a delay reaches 3 hours, an airline must offer alternate travel arrangements in the same class of service and using a reasonable route. The airline must rebook the passenger on the next available flight operated by them or an airline with which they have a commercial agreement.

Flight disruption within the airline control

If the next available flight would not leave within 9 hours of the original departure time, a large carrier must rebook the passenger on a flight operated by any airline, including a competing airline.

Flight disruption outside of the airline control

A large airline is required to rebook using the services of another (competing) airline, if the next available flight operated by them or an airline with which they have a commercial agreement does not depart within 48 hours of the end of the event that caused the disruption.

If there is no flight or the large airline is unable to rebook a passenger on a flight leaving the same airport within 48 hours of the original departure time, or of the end of the event that caused the disruption (if outside of the airline control) they have to book the passenger on a flight leaving another airport, if there is an option nearby.

  • Refund

A passenger would be entitled to a refund instead of rebooking, if:

  • the arrangements offered do not meet their travel needs; or
  • there is no longer any purpose to the travel, because of the disruption.
  • Compensation for Inconvenience

If a passenger chooses a refund instead of rebooking, and the flight disruption is within the airline’s control but not required for safety, the passenger can still claim compensation for inconvenience. Large airlines must pay $400 and small airlines, $125.

  • Seating of children under the age of 14

Airlines have to, at no extra cost and at the earliest opportunity, help seat children under the age of 14 near to their parent, guardian or tutor. The proximity depends on the age of the child:

Under the age of 5 in a seat adjacent to their parent, guardian or tutor
Aged 5 to 11 in the same row and separated by no more than one seat from their parent, guardian or tutor.  
Aged 12 or 13 separated by no more than a row from the parent, guardian or tutor

Airlines are also required to 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.

Travel between Canada and the EU

The EU has a different set of rules related to compensation for flight disruptions and denied boarding. A passenger may be able to get a compensation higher than those prescribed under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations. Therefore, it is recommended that passengers explore all their recourse options before claiming compensation under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *