Cancelled flights, deadly delays and lost luggage are just a few of the common trials of air travel. Passengers deserve protection and Bill C-310 can provide it.
In a random group of 100 recent airline passengers, how many would have a horror story to tell about their flying experience? Cancelled flights. Lost luggage. Sitting on the tarmac for hours. These are the unfortunate realities of air travel today.
To protect passengers against these always annoying, sometimes profound inconveniences, I introduced Bill C-310 to Parliament in February. The Bill, which includes clear measures on compensation for overbooked flights and cancellation, passed its first vote by 139 to 131, and is now being studied further by the House transportation committee.
As it stands, airlines can force customers to give up a seat that they have already paid for, putting many at risk of missing connections, weddings, funerals and other important commitments. If the practice of overbooking must continue, then it’s only fair that its victims be compensated.
For flight delays between two and five hours in length, Bill C-310 would require airlines to pay for meals, and hotels when overnight stays are required. For delays in excess of five hours, passengers would be entitled to a full refund. Not only will this compensate passengers for the pain of delays, but it will encourage airlines to avoid them altogether in order to dodge the considerable resultant cost to them.
Bill C-310 also provides compensation for tarmac delays over one hour and allows passengers to disembark after that time, as long as it is safe to do so. Even the Canadian Airline Council agrees that passengers should not be held prisoner on planes or warehoused on tarmacs beyond 90 minutes – except they don’t want to pay any compensation.
The bill will ensure that passengers are kept informed of flight delays and cancellations. If a delay is imminent, passengers have the right to know.
The bill also highlights concerns over late and misplaced luggage, and the misleading representation of “all-inclusive” pricing presented in airline advertising. It is important for customers to see the airlines’ full cost for a ticket, including taxes and all other surcharges. We know that with today’s high price of fuel, airlines are passing those costs to the consumer.
The new rules will be posted in the airport and airlines will be required to inform passengers of their rights and how to file for rightful compensation. Canada already has some customer service regulations hidden away in miles of legal jargon that is nearly impossible to understand. Bill C-310 will mandate airlines to make clear to the average person how to get the money and compensation they deserve.
Bill C-310 is meant to protect passengers, but it is also fair to airlines, which are often affected by weather and other factors outside their control. For instance, airlines recently cancelled flights to Mexico due to the outbreak of H1N1 (“swine flu”). In such circumstances, Bill C-310 would mandate airlines to provide refunds, but no further compensation would be required.
If you’ve tried to get compensation from an airline, you know the process is extremely frustrating and the reward is usually extremely small – sometimes as little as $100. When you have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars and battled for months for reimbursement, $100 hardly seems worth the effort.
I traveled to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to support Kate Hanni, the Executive Director of FlyersRights.org, as she testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The purpose of the hearings was to gather testimony regarding aviation consumer issues. The experience only strengthened my resolve to help bring about a major revision of Canada’s aviation consumer policy.
Bill C-310 is a victory for all flyers. Customers must be treated better than cargo and C-310 will ensure respect and rights for all passengers.