As the summer of travel chaos worsens, and vacationers prepare for a worst case scenario, the Canadian Government is planning to ensure all canceled flights are covered, regardless of reason. Up until now, air passengers have only been entitled to reimbursements when disruption was within a carrier’s control.
This will change pretty soon.
A new regulation is set to come into force later in the year that will guarantee customers are protected, even in situations where flights are grounded due to unforeseen circumstances. The move follows multiple reports of staff shortages across the industry, believed to have triggered a series of flight delays and cancellations in North America.
Canada Will Enact Stricter Refund Policies Following Cancellations
Acknowledging that the ongoing aviation crisis has the potential to aggravate further, the Canadian Government is taking steps to protect air passengers from the spate of cancellations that is looming. Fortunately, it won’t be long until they enjoy full refund rights, even when airlines cannot be held responsible for the inconvenience.
Starting September 8, Canada’s Ministry of Transport will enforce stricter rules concerning flight refunds, in a bid to ease the burden placed on travelers when readjustments occur. From that date, carriers will be obliged to refund passengers, or book them for the next available flight, following an excessively long delay or cancellation.
According to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), customers will be granted a full refund even when their flights are axed due to incidents beyond an airline’s control. This includes bad weather, one of the leading causes behind cancellations in North America, but also ‘unscheduled mechanical issues’.
Prior to the new regulation, airlines were not legally required to reimburse customers, or even ensure the continuation of their trip, when adverse events took place, such as storms or hurricanes. However, as a vast majority of flights are being delayed, either due to staffing constraints or technical issues, the Canadian Government decided to step in.
Acordding to France Pegeot, a CTA official, the new regulation aims to ‘close the gap’ found in the Canadian air passenger protection regime, ensuring that travelers are protected ‘even when cancellations and lengthy delays occur that are outside the airline’s control’. To be more specific, anyone flying within Canada will benefit from full cancellation coverage.
How Will This Work In Practice?
Once the regulation comes into effect, travelers who have had their flights cancelled or are stranded in the airport due to a ‘lengthy delay’ will be rebooked, or refunded up to 30 days maximum when airlines fail to get them to their final destination within the next 48 hours. Once again, the measure will apply to any disruption.
In the case of a cancellation being communicated halfway through a journey, ‘any unused portion of a ticket must be covered’. That includes unused all add-on service paid for, such as meals, advance seat selection, and extra luggage. On top of that, the CTA has asserted tickets must be refunded to the original payment method.
In other words, reimbursement via travel voucher is officially ruled out, unless it is the customer’s choice to keep the flight credit. During the Covid pandemic, several airlines resorted to voucher-only refunds in an attempt to avoid mass compensations, at a time when restrictions were widespread and they were struggling with a negative balance.
Although national governments initially backed their decision, Covid is now on course to become an endemic disease in many places. This means it is high time airlines are held accountable for disturbances affecting customers. Despite the obvious tightening of refund rules, other leaders are still pushing for more comprehensive regulation.
Some Believe The New Regulation Still Doesn’t Go Far Enough
As argued by Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, the new rules still don’t go far enough. In Lukacs’ view, giving airlines 48 hours to rebook passengers fails to serve traveler needs: ‘whether you travel for a weekend visit, holiday or for business, traveling 48 hours later would defeat the purpose of your travel’.
Lukacs is pressing the Canadian Government to adopt more firm laws, seeing that, currently, Canada is the ‘only Western country’ where airlines are allowed to keep passengers’ money after cancellations, in stark contrast with the United States, European Union members, Israel and ‘even Turkey’. Luckily, the CTA seems to be changing approach, at last.
In these uncertain times, we cannot recommend highly enough taking out travel insurance before flying, whether domestically or abroad. The Canadian Government may be finally acting to safeguard passengers’ rights, but getting insured remains the easiest way to avoid financial setbacks resulting from cancellations.
For more information on Travel Insurance, please visit this page.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories