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Truro Daily News - - OPINION -

You know it’s bad when even the White House is shocked.

The cell­phone video images of a United Air­lines pas­sen­ger be­ing dragged off an over­sold plane in Chicago two weeks ago caused wide­spread out­rage. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said the videos were “troubling.”

The pas­sen­ger was as­saulted, knocked un­con­scious and blood­ied af­ter he re­fused to give up his seat. It was only af­ter the air­line’s stock plum­meted, a boy­cott was launched and a law­suit be­gan that a full apol­ogy fi­nally came.

The news for air­lines got worse last week when the story broke about a 10-year-old P.E.I. boy who was bumped from a fam­ily va­ca­tion flight. The Char­lot­te­town fam­ily of four was head­ing for a March break hol­i­day in Costa Rica when the young­ster was de­nied a seat be­cause the flight was over­sold. It was al­most an­other Home Alone movie night­mare.

A par­ent had to drive with the young­ster to Moncton and then to Hal­i­fax to fi­nally make a con­nec­tion to re­join the other par­ent and child. It as only af­ter the fam­ily re­turned home and The Guardian con­tacted Air Canada that an apol­ogy was is­sued and com­pen­sa­tion of­fered.

The air­line in­dus­try has got­ten away with over­selling flights and bump­ing pas­sen­gers for years with­out accountability. A pas­sen­ger against a ma­jor air­line was an unfair fight.

And the fed­eral govern­ment has long been com­plicit in this egre­gious be­hav­iour.

The Chicago as­sault, the Char­lot­te­town ca­per and pub­lic out­rage fi­nally re­sulted in ac­tion. Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau an­nounced this week that leg­is­la­tion pro­tect­ing air­line pas­sen­gers is com­ing. The long over­due bill of rights for pas­sen­gers should be in place by 2018.

Pas­sen­ger rights ad­vo­cates are well ad­vised to give the bill close scru­tiny be­cause Ot­tawa has failed for years to hold air­lines to ac­count.

Min­is­ter Garneau says the leg­is­la­tion is a clear recog­ni­tion that when you buy a ticket, you have cer­tain rights. It’s about time that Trans­port Canada sup­ports pas­sen­gers ahead of air­lines.

Since 2009, air­lines sub­scribed to a vol­un­tary code of con­duct on pas­sen­gers’ rights – de­vel­oped by Ot­tawa. It was hardly worth the paper it was writ­ten on. Air­lines con­tin­ued to over­book flights and Ot­tawa said that was OK.

They over­book be­cause air­lines fol­low a math­e­mat­i­cal al­go­rithm that some pas­sen­gers won’t show up for a flight and those empty seats can be sold to im­prove prof­its. When all pas­sen­gers show up or an air­line needs to trans­port a flight crew, prob­lems en­sue.

There is no need for stupid de­ci­sions like those in Chicago or Char­lot­te­town. Times are good for air­lines. Prof­its are up and record num­bers of peo­ple are fly­ing. Yet com­plaints seem to in­crease. There is no need to over­book. Pe­riod.

These sorts of in­ci­dents fuel the per­cep­tion that air­lines sim­ply don’t care about their pas­sen­gers.

Seats are get­ting smaller when many Cana­di­ans are get­ting big­ger – in all the wrong places. We de­serve a break. And a little com­fort. And that seat we paid for.

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