Pub­lic to be con­sulted on rights of pas­sen­gers

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FINANCIAL POST - Alicja Siekier­ska Fi­nan­cial Post asiekier­ska@post­media.com

As the bill that will spell out the air­line pas­sen­gers rights makes its way through the Se­nate, the agency tasked with writ­ing reg­u­la­tions and de­ter­min­ing com­pen­sa­tion is fi­nal­iz­ing its plan for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions.

The Cana­dian Trans­porta­tion Agency, an in­de­pen­dent reg­u­la­tor that sets out rules and re­solves dis­putes re­lat­ing to air, rail, and marine trans­porta­tion, said it will launch an on­line con­sul­ta­tion process a few days af­ter Bill C- 49 re­ceives royal as­sent. CTA chief ex­ec­u­tive Scott Streiner said the or­ga­ni­za­tion also plans on hold­ing in- per­son, day- long con­sul­ta­tions in eight cities across the coun­try, in­clud­ing Hal­i­fax, Mon­treal, Ot­tawa, Toronto, Win­nipeg, Cal­gary, Van­cou­ver and Yel­lowknife. The or­ga­ni­za­tion will also ran­domly sur­vey pas­sen­gers at 11 air­ports, a move Streiner said will help broaden the reach of the con­sul­ta­tions.

“We know that these is­sues are very much on the minds of many Cana­di­ans,” Streiner said. “There is a high de­gree of pub­lic in­ter­est in setting the new rules into place, so we wanted to make sure we have enough time to get lots of in­put, but also wrap up the con­sul­ta­tion so we can start draft­ing reg­u­la­tions.”

The de­tails come as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s sweep­ing trans­porta­tion leg­is­la­tion weaves its way through Se­nate read­ings and inches its way closer to law. Bill C- 49 was brought for­ward for sec­ond read­ing de­bate on Thurs­day, al­though a vote is not ex­pected un­til the week of Nov. 20. The con­sul­ta­tions will be­gin a few days af­ter the bill is made into law, and Streiner said he hopes to have reg­u­la­tions that out­line stan­dards of treat­ment and com­pen­sa­tion for pas­sen­gers over flight de­lays, can­cel­la­tions and de­nied board­ing be­fore the end of 2018.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau has stressed Bill C- 49 will en­sure that peo­ple who pur­chase flight tick­ets can­not be forced off a plane due to over­book­ing. Last week, the head of the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion, an in­dus­try group rep­re­sent­ing global air­lines, told the Fi­nan­cial Post there is “ab­so­lutely no need to regulate over­book­ing.”

Streiner said he ex­pects over­book­ing to be a key topic dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tion process and that it will be cru­cial for the CTA to strike a fair bal­ance when it comes to de­ter­min­ing reg­u­la­tions and com­pen­sa­tion lev­els.

“My sense is that if we can get to a frame­work which es­sen­tially en­sures that no­body is in­vol­un­tar­ily bumped be­cause of over­book­ing, that may be where the rea­son­able bal­ance lies,” he said.

While Streiner said the CTA is not plan­ning on fol­low­ing an ex­ist­ing air­line rights frame­work, there are mod­els he ex­pects will be looked at. “There’s no sin­gle model that we want to fol­low blindly, but we’ll def­i­nitely be look­ing at what’s in place in the U.S. and the Euro­pean Union as we try to de­cide what makes sense in Canada,” he said.

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