NO BUMPING FOR CANADIANS Sort of, and the foreign ownership cap is hiked, and oh, WestJet has a new ad

Posted on 05/17/2017 | About Canada

Airlines won't be allowed to bump passengers from a flight against their will under a new passenger bill of rights introduced Tuesday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, who promised the bill last month in the wake of widespread alarm after a United Airlines passenger was seriously injured when he was dragged from a plane in Chicago.

The change is part of a package of amendments to the Canada Transportation Act which also introduces new foreign ownership limits for airlines, requires railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives and improves transparency and efficiency in the freight rail industry.

Shoddy treatment

The minister earlier wrote to all airlines operating in Canada to say such an incident is not to happen here, but he says the new legislation spells it out clearly: people who are legitimate passengers can't be denied boarding or removed from the plane against their will.

“We have all heard recent news reports of shoddy treatment of air passengers,” Garneau said.

“When Canadians purchase an airline ticket, they expect the airline to provide the service that they paid for and to be treated with respect. When things don't go the way they are planned, travellers deserve clear, transparent, fair and consistent compensation."

He said there will be minimum levels of compensation for people who voluntarily agree to be bumped from a flight and if airlines can't get a volunteer, they will have to decide if they want to up the ante to persuade someone to get off.

There will also have to be compensation for lost or damaged bags. Airlines will have to spell out what they will do for passengers who are delayed due to situations within an airline's control, as well as how they will ensure passengers complete their travel if they are delayed due to weather.

The bill also will prevent airlines from charging parents to sit next to their children if the kids are under the age of 14, and will have to create new standards for transporting musical instruments.

Short on specifics

The specifics of what will be compensated and with how much won't be determined until regulations are introduced after the legislation is passed. Those will be worked out by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Garneau said he is considering what further penalties would apply if airlines do not live up to the new requirements, but there are none contained in the legislation.

He wants the new legislation in place in 2018.

There are already some requirements in place for airlines to compensate passengers who are bumped or whose luggage gets lost but each airline can set its own rules and compensation packages.

“There are rules at the moment but they're rather opaque to the average flyer,” said Garneau.

And now (no surprise) a word from…

Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate, says the Canadian Transportation Agency is too cosy with the airlines it is supposed to be policing, and doesn't think this bill will change anything.

He said the agency already fails to do anything about a majority of complaints. He says statistics from the agency show it received more than 500 complaints a year from airline passengers over the last three years, but the agency's enforcement actions dropped in that time.

In 2013-14 the agency acted in 230 cases, but in 2015-16 it was only 64.

“I am profoundly concerned that the same biased body which in the past three, four years completely failed to enforce our rights is going to be in charge of developing regulations and then enforcing them,” he said in an interview.

“This makes absolutely no sense and this is nothing short of entrusting the fox with guarding the hen house.”

Lukacs said passengers are better off taking complaints to small claims court.

Garneau said new support will be provided to help the agency handle the increased workload.

Foreign ownership

Tucked in with all the passengers’ rights ‘Sturm und Drang’, is an important change for Canadian airlines. The legislation will increase the cap on foreign ownership of airlines to 49 percent from 25 percent, and introduces new allowances for airlines to enter into joint ventures with international carriers to do things such as share marketing and scheduling.

At the end of the day this will likely prove to have the most impact on Canada’s airlines and future entries into the market.

Good stuff

In a written statement, Air Canada welcomed the change to allow it to seek out new investors and global capital markets.

The statement said, “The proposed amendments to the legislative provisions governing joint ventures in the airline industry should facilitate the opening up of new markets by Air Canada and its joint venture partners and accelerate projects that are currently under consideration.”

The airline also said it is looking forward to participating in consultations to create the new regulations for the passenger bill of rights.

AC also mentioned how it “constantly strives for customer service excellence, and is committed to doing so within a cost competitive framework.” Then a bit about its Skytrax Four-Star ranking and various other “Best Awards” over the past couple of years.

Good stuff II, and we are the good guys, we are the good guys

Mike McNaney, WestJet vice-president, Industry, Corporate and Airport Affairs welcomed the legislation and said the airline is “committed to working with the CTA, the Minister, parliamentarians and government agencies in the months to come.

"We also encourage the government to address all aspects of the travel experience, particularly those beyond the control of airlines such as lengthy wait times for passenger screening and customs," McNaney added.

"We believe that any effort to improve the guest's travel experience must take into account all aspects of that experience, in particular those services provided by the federal government."

WestJet then congratulated itself for its “award-winning culture of care” and its “unique position as one of the few airlines globally that does not commercially overbook its flights” – and promptly unveiled a marketing campaign which features a passenger was bumped off another airline voicing his frustration to anyone who will listen.