You have booked that dreamy vacation you always wanted to go on! Your bags are packed. Passport – check; sunscreen – check! But wait, what are your air travel rights?
Considering the recent incident involving United Airlines forcibly ejecting a paid customer for not voluntary giving up his seat, what are your rights as a passenger? The European Union and United States have compensation regulations that airlines within their jurisdictions must follow. Unfortunately, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) leaves the amount of monetary compensation up to the individual airline. To change that, the government has just announced today that it will introduce new legislation this spring that will address the issue of travellers being bumped from flights.
In the meantime, know your privileges before you travel. Here are some tips before you book that next flight:
1. Bumped due to overbooking? You may be able to get compensated for that.
You get to the airport and you realize your flight has been overbooked. What do you do? This is not an ideal situation and one of the greatest grievances a passenger can face. What some passengers don’t realize is that the airlines typically compensate you for the delay in form of cash or travel vouchers. The amount varies depending on the length of the delay. Food and accommodation vouchers are also mandatory if delayed due to an extended period.
To avoid such an instance, we recommend pre-booking your seats. It is also helpful if you belong to that specific airline’s loyalty program. Airlines are more likely to bump passengers that do not belong to their loyalty program – though there is never a guarantee.
2. Sitting on the plane for more than 90 minutes? You may be able to get off.
If you’re sitting at the gate for more than 90 minutes due to delays, you may be able to disembark if it’s safe to do so.
3. Lost, damaged or delayed luggage? You may be compensated.
If your bag gets lost, damaged or delayed, airlines are required to compensate you for reasonable costs until they can get your bag to you. The amount varies by carrier, and whether you’re flying international or domestic. For instance, Air Canada offers up to $1,500 for reasonable costs on domestic flights. For delayed luggage, compensation amount depends on how long it took the airline to return the baggage to you.
4. Problems with your flight and the airlines won’t assist? You can file a complaint with CTA.
If you feel that an airline has not adequately resolved your issue, you can take the matter to the CTA. The CTA takes complaints about several air travel issues and may help you get compensation from the airline. Common complaints to the agency include problems with baggage, ticketing and disruptions to service. Customer service problems are a common complaint, although the agency does not have the authority to rule on complaints that relate to service. You can submit an air travel complaint here: https://services.otc-cta.gc.ca/eng/air-complaints
To avoid such hassles, it is highly recommended that you protect yourself by purchasing trip cancellation and interruption insurance. This way you can contact your travel agent and/or the insurance company to resolve any matters more efficiently.
As of now, there’s no legislation or rule in Canada stating that airlines or travel companies legally must do anything for you if a flight is delayed. Every airline has a “Contract of Carriage,” which must be on the company’s website. Passengers are advised to read it carefully and check flight delay policies before booking. The contractual obligation is between the ticket issuer (in this case, the airline) and the customer. As such, the customer is bound to the rules and regulations imposed by the airlines as they relate to flight delays and regulations. These conditions vary by airline.