Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau says COVID-19 has "highlighted a gap in the air passenger protection framework" as the pandemic continues to cause large-scale cancellations and groundings of air carriers around the globe.
Garneau made his remarks on Monday (Dec. 21) on a new Ministerial Direction to the Canadian Transportation Agency to ensure that the "interests of Canadians are protected" when they travel by air.
"Air travel is essential to Canada's economic growth and prosperity, and when Canadians buy an airline ticket, they expect airlines to meet their obligations," said Minister Garneau. "The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a gap in the air passenger protection framework, which did not foresee the potential for large-scale and lengthy flight cancellations and groundings of air carrier fleets not only in Canada but globally. In the event of a future situation that causes similar large-scale flight cancellations, this gap needs to be closed so that travellers are treated fairly."
Mr. Garneau has given the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) the authority to develop a new regulation on the issue of refunds to passengers.
"This new regulation will apply to future flights that are cancelled for reasons outside an air carrier's control, such as a pandemic, and where it is not possible for the carrier to complete the passenger's itinerary within a reasonable timeframe," he said on Monday.
The updated regulation is to be "fair and reasonable to passengers," said Garneau, "and to the extent possible not impose an undue financial burden on air carriers that could lead to their insolvency."
Garneau did not make any mention of Canadian travel agents or if whether or not commission protections would be included in the new regulation.
The Government of Canada is currently developing a package of assistance to Canadian airlines, airports and the aerospace sector that will "include strict conditions to protect Canadians and the public interest, including issuing refunds for flights cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Garneau.
"The new regulation will ensure that a similar situation doesn't occur again in the future," he said.
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