Marc Garneau, minister of transportation and infrastructure, speaks during a funding announcement on Wednesday at the Port of Nanaimo’s cruise ship terminal. Garneau announced that the federal government is investing $46.2 million to expand the Nanaimo Port Authority’s Duke Point operations.

As air rights rules set to land, Garneau readies to overhaul airport operations

This is the second phase of passenger-rights rules

Federal regulators are hoping a wave of new air passenger rights arriving this weekend will take the humbug out of holiday travel.

New rules will take effect on Sunday affecting flight delays and cancellations, including requiring airlines to seat parents beside or near their children at no extra cost, and compensate flyers for delays and cancellations within an airline’s control. Delays resulting from weather or mechanical issues are exempted.

The regulators are also promising public awareness help in the face of polling that suggests many people boarding flights don’t know about the new regime.

This is the second phase of passenger-rights rules. The first ones landed in mid-July and required airlines to compensate and respond to tarmac delays, denied boardings and lost or damaged luggage.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s mandate letter also shows he is to look at a much broader change to how Canada’s airports operate.

The marching orders from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau include making planes and trains more accessible; making Canada’s airports more efficient and accountable to travellers; and set standards to limit the amount of time travellers spend waiting at airport security.

“The model that has existed with our airport authorities for over 20 years has been a very good model, but it’s 20 years old and the world has changed,” he said.

“It’s a good time to re-look at the governance and the way things operate within our airports.”

The mandate letter was made public Friday morning just as Garneau was talking about the new suite of passenger rights.

ALSO READ: Travellers know little about air-passenger rights, Canadian poll suggests

AirHelp, a Berlin-based passenger rights company, has said the exemptions for weather or mechanical malfunctions doesn’t encourage airlines to avoid “so-called undiscovered issues” and allows them to sidestep compensation by pointing to malfunctions on the tarmac.

Other consumer rights advocates say getting monetary compensation is tough because it requires passengers to present evidence that is in the hands of the airline.

The rules rely on travellers filing complaints with airlines or, as a last resort, the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Agency chair Scott Streiner, said the number of complaints about air travel continues to rise and will likely top 10,000 for 2019.

Streiner said he was satisfied with the airlines’ overall efforts to comply with the first wave of rules and expected the same in the coming weeks. He also noted his agency didn’t hesitate to fine companies found in violation of the rules already in place.

But six months into the new regime, it isn’t clear how well things have worked because data about complaints rests with air carriers and isn’t yet public, said Ian Jack, the Canadian Automobile Association’s managing director of government relations.

A CAA-commissioned poll made public Friday found that just over half of respondents said they hadn’t heard or read anything about the rules aiming to protect flyers caught in travel nightmares.

“We clearly need a lot more public education on this so that people actually understand they’ve got these rights and that they start understanding how to exercise them,” Jack said.

“In order to get your rights, you need to know about them. So clearly the government and the carriers need to do a better job of letting people know about this new regime or it’s simply not going to work.”

The Leger poll of 1,517 respondents was conducted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, but can’t be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

John McKenna, who heads the Air Transport Association of Canada, said the stiff penalties could encourage carriers to exploit loopholes to avoid paying them.

“The greater that compensation level is, the more that’s going to incite the operators to be, well, creative in how they manage it,” McKenna said.

“We certainly don’t encourage that kind of stuff.”

Air Canada and Porter Airlines, as well as 15 other carriers and two industry groups, launched a legal challenge to the new rules over the summer, arguing the regulations exceeded the CTA’s authority. The legal challenge is currently before the Federal Court of Appeal.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Local New Democrat Zeb King welcomed Premier John Horgan during a brief photo opportunity in Sidney Monday afternoon (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
NDP leader John Horgan predicts party will ‘flip’ Saanich North and the Islands

Incumbent MLA Adam Olsen calls Horgan’s claim ‘bold’

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

London Drugs at Colwood Corners is temporarily closed after a water main burst on Sunday afternoon. (Google Maps)
Water main burst temporarily closes London Drugs in Colwood

Staff say re-opening date yet to be determined after Sunday incident

West Shore RCMP say a single car crash into a power pole caused a power outage that affected over 1,500 residents in Colwood on Monday morning. (West Shore RCMP)
Vancouver driver cause of power outage in Colwood

Police detain 27-year-old man for impaired driving investigation

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read