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What’s at stake as MPs examine vacation journey chaos

What’s at stake as MPs examine vacation journey chaos

It was a large winter storm that result in the issues. However passengers and MPs are essential of how the transport corporations dealt with the scenario

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On Thursday, executives from Canadian airways, airports and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra will reply to MPs in regards to the journey issues Canadians skilled over the vacations.

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It will likely be an opportunity for politicians from all events to grill these in cost about delays, cancellations and different points skilled by hundreds of Canadians travelling by aircraft and prepare — together with lots of stranded in Mexico after Sunwing cancelled flights and passengers who have been caught on By way of Rail trains in a single day.

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Consultants are calling on the Liberal authorities to reply by fixing systemic weaknesses in Canada’s passenger safety guidelines.

What occurs Thursday?

It’ll be a packed day on the Home of Commons transport committee, as MPs convene for 2 conferences totalling 5 hours. They’ll first hear from Air Canada, Sunwing and WestJet within the morning, then from the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver airport authorities.

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Within the afternoon, Alghabra, division officers and the Canadian Transportation Company will take their flip. The MPs on the committee have additionally mentioned they wish to hear from By way of Rail, affected passengers and advocates, so extra conferences are possible.

How is the federal government at fault for the journey issues?

It was a large winter storm that precipitated the issues, grounding flights and cancelling trains. However passengers, advocates, and MPs are essential of the way in which the transport corporations dealt with the scenario. Opposition MPs flagged “poor buyer care” in a letter to the transport committee chair.

In accordance with air passenger advocate Gábor Lukács, the federal government’s lack of enforcement of current rights is “why passengers have been handled so extremely miserably.” Unhealthy climate occurs in Canada, but it surely’s not an excuse for not speaking with passengers about what’s occurring, as they’re required to by regulation, or preserving them sitting on the tarmac for longer than the regulation permits, he argued.

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The federal authorities has the ability to wonderful airways as much as $25,000 per passenger for every violation, however Lukács says the federal government hasn’t used it — issuing solely 12 notices of violation since April 2022 and in a single case fining WestJet solely $200 per passenger. “It’s truly extra worthwhile for the airline to interrupt the regulation and sometimes after they get caught pay a nominal wonderful,” he mentioned.

Sylvie De Bellefeuille, a lawyer with client group Choice consommateurs, agreed “we haven’t seen many penalties paid by the air carriers that didn’t respect the regulation.”

What protections do air passengers have?

The federal government launched the Air Passenger Safety Rules in 2019 after which strengthened them this September, mentioned Nadine Ramadan, spokesperson for Alghabra. The brand new guidelines stipulate the laws “apply to flights which might be cancelled, or the place there’s a prolonged delay, for causes outdoors of an air service’s management, together with main climate occasions or a pandemic.”

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Air passengers who haven’t obtained the compensation they’re owed from the airline can go to the Canadian Transportation Company to make their declare.

What’s the difficulty with that?

The present protections for air travellers aren”t adequate, advocates say. “Proper now, there are a number of loopholes by which carriers can attempt to keep away from being accountable and attempt to decrease as a lot as attainable the compensation they’ve to supply to customers,” De Bellefeuille mentioned.

Advocates say guidelines that stipulate when an airline has to supply compensation must be simplified and strengthened.

“The factors must be easy like within the European Union, the default being compensation and airways having the ability to not pay compensation solely in actually distinctive circumstances like volcanic eruption, acts of sabotage, and issues of that nature,” Lukács mentioned.

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The framework, Lukács mentioned, is “something however client pleasant.” His group has been calling to carry Canada’s guidelines according to these within the EU.

The system must be modified in order that prospects are routinely compensated, he mentioned, as an alternative prospects having to ask the airline after which probably having to go to the Canadian Transportation Company to get their cash. At present, the backlog on the CTA is so extreme the web site warns Canadians they may very well be ready greater than 18 months for decision. Including to problem is that it’s not clear who has the duty to show what occurred, he added. How can a passenger show the cancellation was as a result of a problem inside the carriers’ management if “all of the logs, all the upkeep information, every part is within the airline’s palms?”

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De Bellefeuille mentioned “the burden of proof must be inversed. It shouldn’t be the shopper who has to show that the air corporations didn’t apply the laws … it must be the opposite method round.”

What does the Liberal authorities say?

Alghabra’s spokesperson mentioned work has been underway since earlier than the vacations to additional strengthen the laws.

“We intend to introduce laws to that impact after the conclusion of consultations, hopefully within the spring session,” Ramadan mentioned. “These modifications will assist improve effectivity and put the onus on airways to reimburse passengers. All choices are on the desk to make sure that what occurred over the vacations with Sunwing doesn’t occur once more.”

How do the airways really feel in regards to the modifications client advocates are calling for?

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Requested in regards to the potential of bringing Canada’s protections according to these within the European Union, Jeff Morrison, president and CEO of the Nationwide Airways Council of Canada, mentioned in an emailed assertion the aviation programs in Canada and the EU are “very totally different.”

“Canada faces extra attainable disruptions and value pressures as a result of massive geography, extra extreme climate occasions, a decrease inhabitants base, and better authorities imposed charges,” he mentioned, including the EU doesn’t have the equal of the Canadian Transportation Company.

“One of the best ways to enhance passenger rights is to strengthen the general air journey ecosystem. So as to enhance air journey transferring ahead, we’d like a shared accountability system the place all entities concerned in passenger air journey — from airport operations, to federal authorities, to navigation providers — are held to account, and the place efficiency may be measured and improved for passengers.”

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How do rail passengers match into all this?

On Tuesday, By way of Rail issued an apology, saying the corporate ought to have “performed higher” in coping with the scenario. “We all know, we must always have been extra forthcoming in sharing details about trains that have been delayed and in speaking updates. We additionally know we must always have adopted a distinct method in supporting passengers on trains that have been delayed for prolonged intervals,” it mentioned.

These passengers have fewer choices for recourse than air travellers. The mandate of the Canadian Transportation Company doesn’t cowl passenger rights for rail transport. Daniel Tsai, a lawyer who teaches on the College of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan College, mentioned the federal government ought to introduce protections for rail passengers just like these in place for air travellers.

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“They need to have a set commonplace and necessities like they do within the airline house.”

Proper now, it’s a voluntary coverage on the a part of By way of Rail to refund or compensate prospects, Tsai mentioned. “There’s no standardized passenger rights, and there must be,” he mentioned.

When there are incidents like passengers caught on trains, “there need to be requirements in place and emergencies in order that passengers get meals and water they usually get communication on a continuing foundation in order that they know precisely what’s taking place.”


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