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Friday,  April 19, 2024 6:50 PM 

Air passenger rights changes put burden of proof on airlines, not travellers, says Ottawa

  • Buzz
  •   04-24-2023  12:31 pm
  •   Pax Global Media

Air passenger rights changes put burden of proof on airlines, not travellers, says Ottawa
Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra. (File photo)
Pax Global Media

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra on Monday (April 24) announced that proposed amendments to the Canada Transportation Act have been introduced as part of Bill C-47, the Budget Implementation Act.

The proposals will “strengthen” Canada’s passenger rights system, streamlining the processes for air travel complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), and increase air carriers’ accountability, Ottawa says.

Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) was implemented in 2019.

The regulations clarified minimum requirements and compensation, and during the pandemic, Ottawa strengthened the rules to include refunds for cancellations and long delays in situations outside the airline’s control, including major weather events or a pandemic.

The new proposal would, among other things, allow the CTA to modify regulations to make compensation mandatory for all disruptions (unless the disruption was caused by very limited circumstances that would be specifically defined by regulations).

It would remove exemptions to air carriers’ compensation obligations based on broad categories of disruptions (disruptions outside/within the control of airlines or required for safety).

It would also make standards of treatment, such as the provision of food and water, mandatory for all flight disruptions and establish requirements for delayed baggage.

The amendments would also:

  • replace the current process for resolving air travel complaints;
  • impose a greater burden of proof on air carriers where it is presumed that compensation is payable to a complainant, unless the air carrier proves the contrary;
  • require air carriers to establish an internal process for dealing with air travel claims;
  • broaden the authority of CTA to set fees and charges to recover its costs;
  • enhance the CTA’s enforcement powers with respect to the air transportation sector by allowing it to increase the maximum amount of penalties applicable.

Following royal assent of the Budget Implementation Act, the CTA would have the authority to initiate the regulatory process to amend the APPR in consultation with the Minister of Transport.

“New regulations are expected to be in place at the earliest opportunity,” Ottawa says. “As of Sept. 30, 2023, or if it is later, as of the day on which the Budget Implementation Act receives royal assent, the CTA would begin to resolve complaints through the new complaint resolution process.”

With the $75.9 million over three years previously announced for the CTA to help reduce the backlog of complaints, these measures would help “ensure that if events similar to those of last summer and over the holiday season occur, passengers are treated fairly, and the carriers meet their obligations swiftly.”

 “It is clear that a stronger and simpler system is needed to increase air carriers’ accountability and transparency, reduce the number of incidents referred to the agency, and streamline the agency’s processes for addressing travel complaints,” stated Minister Alghabra. “The proposed amendments would significantly enhance our air passenger rights regime to ensure travellers get the services and treatment they pay for and deserve.”

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