It will soon be easier to fight for compensation for delayed, cancelled flights

By Michael Talbot and The Canadian Press

Canadian air travellers will soon have an easier time collecting compensation for cancelled and delayed flights.

During the recent debacle at Canada’s overwhelmed airports, numerous travellers reported that their compensation claims were rejected, largely because of a grey area in Canada’s passenger rights charter that mandates airlines pony up for cancellations or delays deemed to be “within the carrier’s control.”

Does that apply to the plague of staff shortages that stifled air travel at Canada’s busiest airports?

Some airlines, including Air Canada and WestJet, denied payments on the basis of crew shortages, arguing it was a safety issue, making it exempt from compensation.

It’s an argument that will soon carry less weight.

“As of September 8, 2022, amendments to the Air Passenger Protection Regulations will come into force to ensure passengers are compensated for flight delays, cancellations, and other incidents that may be out of an air carrier’s control,” the Ministry of Transport said in a release Thursday.

“This will ensure Canadian travellers are protected in nearly every circumstance.”

‘No traveller should have to sleep on the floor’

The Canada Transportation Act grants the Canadian Transportation Agency the power to investigate companies it believes have breached the passenger rights charter legislation and issue fines of up to $25,000 — something it has yet to do.

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs told the Canadian Press earlier this week that the lack of fines reveals a reluctance by the Canadian Transportation Agency to exercise its authority on consumers’ behalf.

CityNews reached out to Transport Canada and the Ministry of Transport to ask why the Canadian Transportation Agency hasn’t issued any fines to airlines for rejecting compensation claims from travellers who said their flights were cancelled due to staff shortages.

“The rules for refunds are decided by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which is an independent agency. The CTA currently stipulates different categories for delayed or cancelled flights to fall under – for example safety issues or staff shortages,” the Office of the Minister of Transport told CityNews.

“Recently, the CTA confirmed in a ruling that staff shortages do not fall under the category of safety issues and therefore delays related to personnel shortage are within the airlines control – thus bringing them under obligation to provide refunds in these instances.”

In a release Thursday the government said it “strongly encourages Canadians to know their rights when they travel by air under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations – these rules cover compensation requirements for all flight incidents that are considered within an air carrier’s control, including flights delayed or cancelled as a result of crew shortages.”

“No traveller should have to sleep on the floor of an airport or feel unsafe as a result of a flight that is delayed or cancelled,” the release said.

“This is unacceptable.”

Jennifer MacDougall says she and her three young children were told by Air Canada they needed to sleep on the floor at Toronto Pearson International Airport. HANDOUT

Airport wait times continue to improve: Canadian government

In its update Thursday, the Canadian government said the situation at the nation’s airports continues to improve, with more flight completions and less aircraft being held on the tarmac.

Passengers screening wait times have also improved.

The government did confirm that the oft-criticized ArriveCAN app will remain mandatory.

Here’s a run-down of the latest stats (Source: Ministry of Transport)

Flight completions

  • For the week of August 1-7, 97 percent of flights planned for Canada’s top four airports were not cancelled, compared to 88 percent over the same period in July.


On-time performance

  • From August 1-7, over 85 percent of flights from the top four airports left on time, or within one hour of their scheduled departure. This is an improvement from under 75 percent for the first week of July.


Holding of aircraft at Toronto Pearson International Airport

  • The number of aircraft being held on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport has decreased dramatically since early May.
  • Over the last week of July, only 1%, or 19 aircraft, were held on the tarmac, as compared to the peak of 373 the week of May 23- 29, 2022.

Passenger security screening wait times

  • From August 1-7, 88 percent of passengers at the four largest airports were screened within 15 minutes by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), an improvement from 84 percent the previous week (July 25-31).
  • Toronto Pearson International Airport: 88 percent for August 1-7.
  • Vancouver International Airport: 84 percent for August 1-7.
  • Montréal-Trudeau International Airport: 87 percent for August 1-7.
  • Calgary International Airport: 89 percent for August 1-7.

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