Consumer rights advocates and the airline industry agree on one thing: There is no need to completely emulate Europe to better protect travelers. It is more complicated for the rest. The responsibility of carriers to tell the truth in the event of unforeseen events remains an element of controversy.
On the one hand, airlines are criticized for giving incomplete explanations to their customers to let them know if they are entitled to compensation under the Air Passenger Protection Regulation (RPPA). At the other end of the spectrum, it is argued that it is difficult to determine the appropriate level of information to provide.
The issue took up much of the discussion at a panel discussion organized by McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law on Friday, which was attended by representatives from Option consommateurs, WestJet, the Association du international air transport (IATA) and the Agency Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) – responsible for the application of the APPR.
“It’s up to the traveler to make the claim when there are unforeseen circumstances,” said Sylvie De Bellefeuille, a lawyer for Option consommateurs. To do this, the passenger must rely on the information provided by the carriers. Needless to say, they are in conflict of interest here. »
Minimum compensation in case of delay or cancellation:
- 3 hours or more, but less than 6 hours: $400
- 6 hours or more, but less than 9 hours: $700
- 9 hours or more: $1000
(For companies like Air Canada, Air Transat, etc.)
There are three categories of delays: situations attributable to the carrier; situations attributable to the carrier, but necessary for security reasons; situations beyond the control of the carrier. The second category was found at the center of exchanges between Mto me De Bellefeuille and Jared Mikoch-Gerke, director of government and regulatory relations for WestJet. Many travelers have been denied compensation in the last year because a company attributed their contingencies to safety issues, for example mechanical breakdowns.
Option consommateurs believes that this aspect of the RPPA should be better defined if it is strengthened. Following the chaotic bouts of the Christmas season at airports, Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra recently hinted that the Travelers Charter could gain more traction.
“I am not saying that we have to copy and paste what is being done in Europe,” said M.to me From Bellefeuille.
The responsibilities of an airline must be well defined. The problem [dans le RPPA] is that there is a security aspect, but it is vague.
Sylvie De Bellefeuille, lawyer at Option consommateurs
The CTA, which has to deal with more than 34,000 complaints received from disgruntled travelers since the Traveler’s Charter came into effect at the end of 2019, seems to agree. Cautious, Tom Oommen, director of analysis within the federal agency, recalled that its president, France Pégeot, had already ruled on the subject.
« The president avait declaré, lors d’une comparution devant le Comité permanent des transports des Communes, qu’elle estimait that the three categories of perturbations des vols manquaient de clarté et qu’il était difficile pour les voyageurs de savoir à quoi ils avaient Right. »
Called to speak on the subject, the WestJet representative said that everything that revolves around the notion of security is “complicated”. Mr. Mikoch-Gerke recognized that the airline industry could do better when it comes to communication. He said the Alberta airline would even be ready to come up with a more comprehensive list of what constitutes a safety issue.
More than carriers
Mr Mikoch-Gerke also made an argument considered “legitimate” by option consumers: it’s not just airlines that need to be stricter. The airport chaos is also attributable to actors reporting to Ottawa, such as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), the federal agency that provides security at airports, as well as the Canada Border Services Agency.
“Airlines are the only regulated entities,” Mikoch-Gerke said. This is where there is a problem. »
What we want is for other entities to share the responsibility when there are interruptions. Everyone must be at the same level, not just the carriers.
Jared Mikoch-Gerke, director of government and regulatory relations for WestJet
Over the summer, a shortage of CATSA officers and an insufficient number of customs officers at airports had caused delays often amounting to hours in both departure and arrival.
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