On May 23, a new milestone was reached that will better protect the rights of airline customers.
Bill C-49, which establishes the charter for travellers, was finally passed by the Senate on May 22 and became law the next day after one year of debate. Air travellers will, however, have to wait a few more months before having the necessary tools to compensate for unsatisfactory service.
The development of this charter is the responsibility of the Canadian Transportation Agency, which must launch consultations.
"The CTA will get to work right away and in the coming months, will consult with Canadians and all those involved in this charter, the airlines and others, so that this year, we can present an air travellers' rights charter," promised Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
The obligations of air carriers to their passengers will have to be "explained in a simple and clear way," he said.
Under this charter, passengers could receive financial compensation in case of denied boarding during overbooking, delays and cancellations of flights and loss of their luggage. The charter would also frame long delays on the tarmac.
Air carriers would not be held responsible for delays or cancellations caused by events beyond their control such as weather, air traffic or a security threat.
The charter may have helped the few hundred passengers stuck in Air Transat planes last July. Passengers had to stay for five to six hours inside two flights to the Ottawa airport that became stranded on the tarmac due to inclimate weather. After an investigation, the CTA had blamed the carrier who had finally decided to compensate its passengers.
NDP MP Robert Aubin, who criticized the lack of precision surrounding the development of this charter, is doubtful.
"A bill that does not set up a real charter of passenger rights and leaves travelers on the tarmac doubled by a competition commissioner who loses his powers, which could result in an increase in tariffs; in the end, there is nothing to be happy about the adoption of C-49," he said by email.
Cameras on board
The Transportation Modernization Act will also authorize a controversial move to add microphones and video cameras to locomotives. The goal is to improve rail safety, according to Minister Garneau.
"There is too much derailment in our country right now, and as you know, rail safety is extremely important," he said.
The government has accepted one of the Senate amendments to ensure the destruction of audio and video tapes after a certain period of time. This period remains to be defined by regulation.
The union representing railway workers had expressed fears about protecting the privacy of its members.