This article was updated on Thursday, June 23 at 5:05 a.m.
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has announced new regulations for cancelled flights that “ensure Canadians’ interests are protected when they travel by air,” according to a government press release published on Wednesday (June 22).
“As the Canadian aviation industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and more and more Canadians are choosing to travel by air, it’s especially important that travellers are treated with fairness and respect,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a statement, announcing that the CTA’s new “Regulations Amending the Air Passenger Protection Regulations” are now finalized.
The regulations require that refunds be provided for cancelled flights or lengthy delays in all types of situations outside an air carrier’s control and regardless of the type of ticket that was purchased, Alghabra explained.
The new rules will come into force on Sept. 8, 2022.
Until that date, passengers whose flights are cancelled or delayed by three hours or more for reasons the airline cannot control, including weather or closed borders, are not entitled to a refund. In cases like this, the airline must rebook them on the next available flight.
“The new regulations, which amend Canada’s existing Air Passenger Protection Regulations, will apply to future flights that are cancelled for reasons outside an air carrier’s control, including major weather events, a pandemic, as well as situations where it is not possible for the carrier to complete the passenger’s itinerary within a reasonable timeframe,” Alghabra said.
The rules also “provide clarity around timing, cost coverage, method of payment, and deadlines to refund travellers in such situations,” the Minister noted.
“They were developed in a manner that is fair and reasonable to passengers, with the goal of not imposing an undue financial burden on air carriers that could result in higher travel costs,” he said.
“Whether due to a large-scale cancellation or a small incident, we know that sometimes travel doesn’t go according to plan.”
“These new regulations will protect travellers in these unexpected situations. Our government will continue to protect the interests of passengers.”
The change allows customers to choose between a refund or another flight that leaves within 48 hours on the airline in question, or a partner airline, at no additional cost. Large carriers will be required to put customers on competitors’ planes.
“These regulations will close the gap in the Canadian air passenger protection regime highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that even when cancellations and lengthy delays occur that are outside the airline’s control, passengers will be protected if the airline cannot complete their itinerary within a reasonable period of time,” France Pégeot, CTA chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Yesterday, WestJet’s vice-president of government relations, Andrew Gibbons, told the Globe and Mail that the airline is “disappointed” that the new rule unfairly makes it the “sole provider of reimbursement” for delays it cannot control.
He said WestJet relies on government agencies, NAV Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to provide a seamless experience for travellers.
This is a developing story.