No bump­ing al­lowed

New pas­sen­ger bill of rights spells out com­pen­sa­tion for air trav­ellers

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

Air­lines won’t be al­lowed to bump pas­sen­gers from a flight against their will un­der a new pas­sen­ger bill of rights in­tro­duced Tues­day by Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Marc Garneau.

That change is part of a pack­age of amend­ments to the Canada Trans­porta­tion Act, which also in­tro­duces new for­eign own­er­ship lim­its for air­lines, re­quires rail­ways to in­stall voice and video recorders in lo­co­mo­tives and im­proves trans­parency and ef­fi­ciency in the freight rail in­dus­try.

Garneau promised the bill of rights last month in the wake of widespread alarm af­ter a United Air­lines pas­sen­ger was se­ri­ously injured when he was dragged from a plane in Chicago.

The min­is­ter ear­lier wrote to all air­lines op­er­at­ing in Canada to say such an in­ci­dent is not to hap­pen here, but he says the new leg­is­la­tion spells it out clearly: peo­ple who are le­git­i­mate pas­sen­gers can’t be de­nied board­ing or re­moved from the plane against their will.

“We have all heard re­cent news re­ports of shoddy treat­ment of air pas­sen­gers,” Garneau said at a news con­fer­ence. “Such incidents will not be tol­er­ated in Canada. When Cana­di­ans buy an air­line ticket, they ex­pect the air­line to keep its part of the deal.”

He said there will be min­i­mum lev­els of com­pen­sa­tion for peo­ple who vol­un­tar­ily agree to be bumped from a flight and if air­lines can’t get a vol­un­teer, they will have to de­cide if they want to up the ante to per­suade some­one to get off.

There will also have to be com­pen­sa­tion for lost or dam­aged bags. Air­lines will have to spell out what they will do for pas­sen­gers who are de­layed due to sit­u­a­tions within an air­line’s control, as well as how they will en­sure pas­sen­gers com­plete their travel if they are de­layed due to weather.

The bill also will pre­vent air­lines from charg­ing par­ents to sit next to their chil­dren if the kids are un­der the age of 14, and will have to cre­ate new stan­dards for trans­port­ing mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

The specifics of what will be com­pen­sated and with how much won’t be de­ter­mined un­til reg­u­la­tions are in­tro­duced af­ter the leg­is­la­tion is passed. Those will be worked out by the Cana­dian Trans­porta­tion Agency.

Garneau said he is con­sid­er­ing what fur­ther penal­ties would ap­ply if air­lines do not live up to the new re­quire­ments, but there are none con­tained in the leg­is­la­tion.

He wants the new leg­is­la­tion in place in 2018.

There are al­ready some re­quire­ments in place for air­lines to com­pen­sate pas­sen­gers who are bumped or whose lug­gage gets lost but each air­line can set its own rules and com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages.

“There are rules at the mo­ment but they’re rather opaque to the av­er­age flyer,” said Garneau.

Ga­bor Lukacs, an air pas­sen­ger rights ad­vo­cate, says the Cana­dian Trans­porta­tion Agency is too cosy with the air­lines it is sup­posed to be polic­ing, and doesn’t think this bill will change any­thing.

He said the agency al­ready fails to do any­thing about a ma­jor­ity of com­plaints. He says sta­tis­tics from the agency show it re­ceived more than 500 com­plaints a year from air­line pas­sen­gers dur­ing the last three years, but the agency’s en­force­ment ac­tions dropped in that time.

In 2013-14 the agency acted in 230 cases, but in 2015-16 it was only 64.

“I am pro­foundly con­cerned that the same bi­ased body which in the past three, four years com­pletely failed to en­force our rights is go­ing to be in charge of de­vel­op­ing reg­u­la­tions and then en­forc­ing them,” he said. “This makes ab­so­lutely no sense and this is noth­ing short of en­trust­ing the fox with guard­ing the hen house.”

CP PHOTO

Trav­ellers pick up their lug­gage at a bag­gage carousel at the Ot­tawa Air­port on Tues­day. The fed­eral govern­ment is in­tro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion for a pas­sen­ger bill of rights that will set guide­lines for how air­lines pas­sen­gers are treated.

Garneau

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