Bill of rights cleared for take­off

Truro Daily News - - OPINION -

It’s a funny kind of busi­ness model: a com­pany can sell you a prod­uct that it doesn’t even have avail­able, and then when you show up to get what you paid for, it can tell you, “Too bad.”

It can set all kinds of strin­gent rules for when you ab­so­lutely have to ar­rive to avail of their ser­vices (in­clud­ing say­ing that if you’re five min­utes late, they won’t serve you), but face no penal­ties them­selves if they fail to de­liver timely ser­vice, even if it’s clearly their own fault.

Wel­come to the world of Cana­dian air travel, where fight­ing for fair treat­ment can be an up­hill bat­tle.

Late last week, though, the fed­eral govern­ment took steps to level the play­ing field a lit­tle.

The first part of the air­line pas­sen­ger bill of rights is go­ing to come into ef­fect July 15. It cov­ers ev­ery­thing from the stan­dards of care for pas­sen­gers on air­craft sit­ting, wait­ing to take off (there have to be work­ing bath­rooms, for ex­am­ple) to what hap­pens if the air­line sells you a seat it doesn’t ac­tu­ally have.

If you’re bumped be­cause of over­book­ing on a ma­jor air­line and are delayed from reach­ing your fi­nal des­ti­na­tion for less than six hours, the air­line will have to pay you $900. If the de­lay is be­tween six and nine hours, the pay­ment will be a min­i­mum of $1,800. With more than nine hours of de­lay, the com­pen­sa­tion will be a min­i­mum of $2,400.

It’s about time. Over­book­ing is just about the most frus­trat­ing part of air travel. Sit­ting in the de­par­ture lounge while air­line per­son­nel search for volunteers to fly later and re­ceive a travel voucher can be nerve-wrack­ing, es­pe­cially when you know that the next step will be se­lect­ing pas­sen­gers who won’t be flying based on the air­line’s own for­mula. Some things won’t change.

Weather is­sues are dif­fer­ent – the new reg­u­la­tions ap­ply to de­lays that are within an air­line’s con­trol, in­clud­ing things like over­book­ing and sched­uled main­te­nance. For is­sues out­side the air­line’s con­trol, the re­quire­ment will be for air­lines to com­plete a pas­sen­ger’s itin­er­ary.

In De­cem­ber, more reg­u­la­tions will ap­ply, in­clud­ing com­pen­sa­tion for can­celled flights, a re­quire­ment that an air­line see you through to a des­ti­na­tion even if it re­quires book­ing you a seat on a com­pet­ing air­line, and new rules that mean air­lines will have to seat chil­dren un­der five with a par­ent. Air­lines will also have to pay pas­sen­gers for flights delayed by the air­line.

The changes are over­due. For too long, this coun­try’s air­lines have held vir­tu­ally all the cards when it comes to com­pen­sat­ing pas­sen­gers for de­lays and can­cel­la­tions. Not only are pas­sen­gers put out by ar­bi­trary choices, the air­lines them­selves have de­ter­mined, to some de­gree, how they want to ad­dress com­plaints.

It’s a good thing to see the play­ing field get­ting lev­elled – even when that play­ing field is an air­field.

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