Public to be consulted on rights of passengers
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.