Canada acts to protect passengers’ rights

Courtesy Toronto Pearson Airport

NO better time than now it is for aviation authorities to step forward and assure air travellers of their rights. The recent spate of complaints about mistreatment by airlines in North America arising from overbooked situations has certainly heightened the awareness of the urgent need for protective measures.

The Canadian government is introducing legislation setting out national standards and measures that will apply to all airlines operating into and out of Canada. Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau warned that if airlines “don’t change some of their practices, there will be repercussions.”

One of the rules applies to bumping passengers off in an overbooking situation. Mr Garneau said: “If somebody has bought a ticket for a particular flight that person cannot be removed from that flight. This is non-negotiable.”

It is however not clear how this rule will play out as it is believed that details on compensation are being worked out. Indeed, the main problem is likely to be one of enforcement and the cost of monitoring as the European Union has found out. At the same time, the rules are often open to different interpretations and dispute, and that in turn makes enforcement difficult and cumbersome. Consequently the whole process takes a long time to be resolved and becomes ineffectual. .

While this is not the first time that measures to protect passengers’ rights are introduced in Canada and the Untied States, one hopes that as the dust over the spate of complaints settles, the matter will be kept in constant review and not be relegated to the back burner.