Canadians trying to travel over the holidays this week have faced a number of challenges getting to their destinations, thanks to the arrival of intense winter storms.
Major Canadian airlines canceled hundreds of flights across the country on Thursday, Friday and Saturday amid freezing rain, snow and strong winds.
In response to the storms, Air Canada announced Thursday that it would implement a “goodwill refund policy” that allows customers to request a refund or travel voucher if they purchased a ticket by December 21 for travel to or from from a Canadian airport between December 22 and December 26.
“If you are scheduled to travel during the affected period, you can retrieve your reservation for a refund up to two hours before departure, free of charge on your Air Canada flight,” read a statement on the airline’s website.
Outside of goodwill gestures, many Canadians wonder what their rights are in such situations. In Canada, air passengers can be compensated for flight delays and cancellations under the Canadian Transportation Agency’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR). APPR regulations can be difficult to parse, warns Gabor Lukacs, an advocate for Canadian air passengers and president of nonprofit Air Passenger Rights.
This month, Air Passenger Rights submitted a report to the House of Commons recommending a review of the APPR, including simplifying the language and definitions within the regulations.
“The terminology itself is creating a lot of confusion,” Lukacs told CTVNews.ca during a phone interview on Friday, adding that the APPR is “extremely complicated.”
To make it less complicated, CTVNews.ca breaks down what rights passengers have when a flight is delayed or cancelled, including due to bad weather.
OUTSIDE THE CONTROL OF THE AIRLINE
Sometimes, as is the case with many Canadian travelers this week, a flight is canceled or delayed for reasons beyond the control of the airlines. Those reasons may include weather conditions, war or political unrest, air traffic control instructions, medical emergencies, a security threat, and other factors.
In the event of a cancellation, denied boarding, or delay of three hours or more, airlines must provide passengers with alternative travel arrangements or a refund. If passengers opt for alternative travel arrangements, airlines must provide a seat on their next available flight, or on one operated by an airline with which they have a commercial agreement, within 48 hours of the original departure time.
“Yes [the airline is] cannot deliver the passenger to its own network within 48 hours of the original departure time, so for large airlines such as Air Canada, WestJet and Swoop, there are legal requirements to purchase passenger tickets elsewhere airline,” Lukacs said.
If the cause of the cancellation, delay or denied boarding is beyond the control of the airline, the airline is not legally obligated to cover the cost of food or accommodation for the affected passengers, nor does it offer any financial compensation.
WITHIN THE CONTROL OF THE AIRLINE
Lukacs said passengers have more compensation options when flights are canceled or delayed for reasons within the airlines’ control.
In the event of a cancellation or delay of two hours or more, if passengers are informed less than 12 hours before departure time, airlines must provide food and beverages in “reasonable amounts” as well as a media. Passengers denied boarding are entitled to these rights immediately. If passengers have to wait all night for their flight, airlines have to offer a hotel or other comparable accommodation free of charge, as well as free transportation to the accommodation.
Airlines must also provide alternative travel arrangements or refunds in case of cancellation or delay of three hours or more. However, if the cause of the disruption is within their control, they have less time (nine hours) to arrange alternative travel within their own network before being asked to book a flight on another airline.
“If a flight is canceled due to crew shortages, which is under the airline’s control, then they have to rebook it on other airlines’ flights if they can’t rebook it on their own network within nine hours.” Lucas explained.
Passengers informed of a cancellation or delay 14 days or less before departure time, or who are denied boarding, are also entitled to financial compensation of up to $1,000. The amount of compensation awarded depends on circumstances such as the length of the delay and the size of the airline.
RIGHTS OF PASSENGERS STUCK IN THE ASPHALT?
Sometimes bad weather or air traffic problems cause a plane to be grounded on the runway with everyone aboard for hours before takeoff or after landing. Whether they are in the terminal or stuck on the tarmac, passengers have the same rights described above in the event of a delay or cancellation.
The airline must also provide passengers stranded on the runway with access to toilets, adequate ventilation and cooling, the means to communicate with people outside the aircraft when possible, and food and drink, “in reasonable amounts,” taking into account the duration of the flight. travel. delay.
Once a flight has been on the runway for three hours, airlines are legally required to allow passengers to disembark. The exception is that if takeoff is imminent, that time window can be extended by an additional 45 minutes.
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