Know your rights
Canadian travellers should familiarize themselves with the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), which were developed by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and came into effect in 2019. The APPR covers flights to, from, and within Canada, including connecting flights.
Situations where you may be eligible for filing a complaint include:
- Flight delays and cancellations
- Lost luggage
- Lack of accessible transportation for disabled or elderly
- Discrimination on the basis of race/religion/gender expression etc.
Should you be in a position where you need to request compensation or a refund from an airline, the first step is to go to the airline themselves. If the airline denies your claim, you can then file a complaint with the CTA. These claims do require a lot of paperwork so make sure to keep all documents related to your flight. This includes the original flight details (flight number, airline, date and time), and any official notification that your flight has been changed. It’s also handy to hold onto any receipts from food or accommodation that you needed to purchase as a result of the cancelled or delayed flight.
Under the APPR you have up to one year to make a claim (in writing) against the airline and the airline then has 30 days to respond by either issuing payment or explaining why compensation is not owed.
The APPR states that compensation is required for flight cancellations or significant delays that are “within the carrier’s control.” For example, for a flight delay of three to six hours, passengers on large airlines are entitled to compensation of $400 . If that delay extends to nine hours or more, passengers are entitled to $1,000.
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Loopholes and amendments
However, one of the biggest issues airlines have this summer are crew shortages due to COVID-19. Many airlines are stating that this is beyond their control and as such passengers who have had their flights cancelled or delayed are not entitled to any compensation. This has resulted in a number of problems which have extended past the airlines and onto the CTA.
In an effort to fix this gap in regulations, the CTA has announced upcoming amendments to the APPR that will take effect Sept. 8, 2022. These new amendments will provide additional measures benefitting the passenger in situations that are considered outside the airline’s control.
Until this gap in regulations is bridged, many Canadians are finding themselves denied compensation. In these situations, travel insurance may come in handy. Additionally, travellers to Europe can take advantage of Regulation EC No 261/2004. Under this protective regulation, passengers are legally entitled to 250 to 600 Euros if they are denied boarding, bumped from their flight, have a delayed flight, or if the flight is cancelled.
All travellers should also be aware of the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99). This treaty establishes airline liability in several cases including flight disruption and delay, damage, or loss of baggage and cargo. For your best chance at receiving compensation, make sure to keep all flight and luggage related documents. You should also take photographs of your suitcase to have on hand showing the brand and colour. If you have receipts for the items in your luggage, submit those with the claim since airlines will always undervalue. That being said, there is a maximum claim of US$1,700 so be mindful of checking any valuables.
MC99 is a universal treaty meant to govern airline liability worldwide, so it is only applicable to international flights between countries that are part of the treaty. Again, make your claim with the airline first and emphasize the Montreal Convention. If you still have problems receiving compensation, take the claim to the CTA.
More tips for requesting compensation from airlines
The regulations above help you better understand when you should receive compensation or a refund from the airline. However, travellers and airline employees have a few other suggestions to help with the process.
Some Canadians are lucky in that they learn about their flight delay or cancellation well in advance. However, there are many others who find out that their flight has been cancelled or disrupted right before their time of travel.
Since this is a possibility, it’s best to arrive at the airport prepared for worst-case scenarios. This means bringing cash, purchasing travel insurance, and downloading the airline app with your ticketing information. You might also want to consider a tracking device like AirTags in the case of lost baggage.
Should you end up in a situation where you are seeking financial compensation, you’ll need to be patient. Erika Lange, who works in customer service for a Canadian airline, shares that generally speaking it should only take 30 days for travellers to receive their reimbursement. However, each claim is assessed by a specialist based on the APPR criteria. Due to both COVID-19 and the increased volume in claims, it’s taking longer than normal.
As frustrating as it is to have your travel plans disrupted please remember that it’s not the fault of the airport representative you will end up speaking to. Airlines are understaffed and taking your anger out on an employee just doing their job doesn’t fix the issue.
Kindness and patience go a long way during these frustrating times and, who knows, you might even be rewarded for it. Sarah Cook from Ottawa was.
Cook had a flight to Amsterdam to catch Ed Sheeran in concert in July, but ended up being bumped off her flight back to Canada. She called Air Canada and nicely asked the assisting agent what had happened and how she could get back home. The airline agent told her that the original flight was fully booked and asked if she had any flexibility in her return date. Cook agreed to leave a day later than originally planned and was upgraded to business class as a thank you for her patience and willingness to be flexible.
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