The Canadian Transportation Agency has fined nine companies $117,000 in its first enforcement of regulations on full-fare disclosure.
The agency told Blacklock’s it also issued a total 117 formal notices for misleading advertising that concealed the full cost of travel. Offenders included most major airlines – including Air Canada, WestJet and Porter – and numerous travel websites.
New rules were enacted last Dec. 18 but not enforced till this past May to give promoters time to comply, regulators explained. “The agency worked with advertisers to assist them in understanding what they needed to do,” said Marine Maltais, agency spokesperson.
Companies to receive multiple warnings for separate violations were Air Canada; Air France; Porter Airlines; Carlson Wagonlit Travel; Downunder Travel; and flightcentre.ca.
“It appears the regulator is working hard,” said MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina, Ont.), New Democrat transport critic; “This is sending a signal out to industry to be honest and truthful in pricing.”
Agency rules require that all air fares advertised in Canada disclose the true cost of unavoidable taxes, surcharges or other fees, with exemptions for air cargo carriers; travel package promotions that include accommodation or entertainment; or contracted business-to-business travel services.
The largest fine imposed to date is $40,000 on the website itravel2000.com, which was cited for “lack of co-operation”, followed by flightcentre.ca ($21,000 in fines); Air China ($10,000); Corsair ($10,000); Etihad Airways ($10,000); Flightnetwork.com ($8,000); Bradley Air Services Ltd. ($8,000); American Airlines ($5,000); and Aerovias del Continente Americano ($5,000).
MP David McGuinty, Liberal transport critic, said the fines remain too modest.
“For a major international airline – without naming names – this is not a force at play to get them to cease and desist,” said McGuinty, MP for Ottawa South. “They are driving traffic to their websites, driving people into travel agencies; people are getting the bills and not realizing they were in fact lured in, effectively under false numbers.”
Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt did not comment.
Agencies given warnings but no fines by federal regulators included Amex Canada Inc., Searstravel.ca and the Alberta Motor Association.
“Unless there are consequences, different operators will continue to flout the rules,” McGuinty said.
The European Union enacted fare disclosure regulations in 2008, followed by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2012.
The complete list of advertisers warned over breaches of full-price disclosure regulations under the Canadian Transportation Act includes Aeroflot; Aerovias del Continente Americano; Air Canada; Air Canada Vacations; Air China Ltd.; Air creebec; Air Labrador; Air North Charter & Training; Air Pacific Ltd.; Air Tindi Ltd.; Air Transat A.T. Inc.; Alaska Airlines; Alberta Motor Association; Alitalia; American Airlines; Amex Canada; Aussie Travel; Austrian Airlines; Bains Travel; Bar XH Air Inc.; Bearskin Lake Air Service; Bel Air Travel Group; Bradley Air Services; British Airways; Brussels Airlines; Butte Travel Services Ltd.; Calm Air International; Canadian North Inc.; Carlson Wagonlit Travel; Cathay Pacific; Cheap Tickets & Travel Inc.; Cheapoair.ca; China Eastern; China Southern; Compagnie Nationale Royal Air Maroc; Compania Panamena de Aviacion; Condor; Corsair; Delta; Deutsche Lufthansa; Downunder Travel; Egypt Air; El Al Israel Airlines; Emirates; EPA Air Algéria; Etihad Airways; Eva Airways Corp.; Expedia; Finnair; flightcentre.ca; Flight Network; Flylink Travel Corp.; Gala Travels; Groupon Inc.; Hainan Airlines; Handa Travel Services Ltd.; Harbour Air Ltd.; Hawkair Aviation Services Ltd.; Helijet International; Hume Travel Corp.; Icelandair; Island Express Air Inc.; ITravel 2000.com; Japan Airlines; Jet Airways (India) Ltd.; K.D.Air Corp.; Keewatin Air LP; KLM Royal Dutch Airlines; Korean Air Lines; LATAM Airlines; North Star Air Ltd.; Northwestern Air Lease Ltd.; Orca Airways; Pacific Coast Airlines Ltd.; Pakistan International Airlines Corp.; PAL Airlines; Pascan Aviation Inc.; Perimeter Aviation Ltd.; Polish Airlines SA; Porter Airlines; Qantas Airways; Qatar Airways; Red Tag Vacations; Royal Jordanian Airlines; Sata Internacional; Seaair Seaplanes Ltd.; Searstravel.ca; selloffvacations.com; Singapore Airlines Ltd.; Société Air France; South African Airways; Sunquest Vacations; Sunwing Airlines; Swiss International Air Lines Ltd.; Taca International Airlines; TAM Linhas Aereas; Thomas Cook Canada Inc.; Thunder Airlines Ltd.; Transportes Aéreos Portugueses; Transwest Air Limited Partnership; travelalerts.ca; targetvacations.ca; Travelocity Global; Travelzoo Inc.; Tripcentral.ca; Turkish Airlines Inc.; Virgin Atlantic Airways; Wasaya Airways Limited Partnership; and WestJet.