Air Travel Notice ‘Disgusting’

The Canadian Transportation Agency says it’s reviewing a website notice found to mislead air passengers over compensation for delayed and cancelled flights. One advocate said the notice was “disgusting”.

“The Agency is looking into the matter,” a spokesperson said. The Agency declined further comment. In a Fly Smart guide the Agency urged consumers not to get their hopes up for compensation over snarled airline schedules. The notice:

  • • Timetables “are approximate and are not guaranteed”;
  • • “Schedules are subject to change without notice”;
  • • “Carriers are not responsible for damages such as stress, inconvenience, loss of income or loss of enjoyment as a result a schedule irregularity.”

The notice is wrong on all three counts, said Dr. Gábor Lukács of Air Passenger Rights. Lukács noted under case law and the Agency’s own rulings, airlines must notify passengers of changes in flight plans; liability is assigned regardless of who is responsible for a flight delay; and courts have compensated passengers for “stress, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment” caused by delays or cancellations.

“This is appalling,” said Lukács, who wrote a letter of complaint to regulators. “Most passengers would go to the website and may not know about the rulings. Obviously the Agency is supposed to speak through its rulings, but this disconnect between those decisions and what is on the Agency’s website raises some serious concerns about the impartiality of the current decision-makers at the Agency.”

Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, said the notice appeared clearly misleading. “This is a sign of disgusting unprofessionalism on the part of the CTA,” said Cran.

“We ask for a quick correction from the Agency,” Cran said. “They seem to have an anti-consumer attitude. We’ve been seeking a Passengers’ Bill of Rights that past governments have seen fit to reject.”

The last Parliament twice rejected private bills mandating minimum compensation for travellers. Bill C-459 An Act Regarding The Rights Of Air Passengers proposed that airlines pay customers up to $1,000 for flight cancellations or delays. The New Democrat bill was defeated on a 149 to 134 vote in 2013.

The Transportation Agency has acknowledged Canada is one of the few industrialized countries without a passenger rights bill, noting compensation for delays, cancellations or denial of boarding is the law in Argentina; Brazil; Chile; China; Colombia; Iceland; India; Israel; Nigeria; Norway; Pakistan; Peru; The Philippines; Switzerland; Thailand; Turkey; Uruguay; Venezuela and the United States, where delays of more than four hours entitle passengers to 400% compensation to a maximum US$1,300. The European Union requires that carriers reimburse passengers for delays of five hours or more, regardless of the reason.

By Dale Smith

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