Canadian airlines ask appeal court to quash new passenger rights rules

OTTAWA — Canadian airlines are among the hundreds of carriers asking the Federal Court of Appeal to quash new rules around passenger rights.

Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc., along with some 290 member airlines of the International Air Transport Association, say in a court filing that required compensation for passengers dealing with delayed flights and damaged luggage violates international standards and should be rendered invalid.

The court application, filed last week, also says nullifying the new provisions would avoid confusion for international passengers who could be subject to travel regimes from multiple jurisdictions.

John McKenna, who heads the Air Transport Association of Canada, calls the new rules “ridiculous” and says they will drive up the cost of flying.

RELATED: Feds release details of long-promised passenger bill of rights

Passenger rights advocates say the rules do not go far enough, arguing the criteria for monetary compensation are tough to meet as passengers would have to present evidence typically in the hands of an airline. Gabor Lukacs, founder of the group Air Passenger Rights, says the regulations give airlines “carte blanche to refuse” compensation based on unverifiable maintenance issues.

“These regulations were written for the airlines, by the airlines,” says Lukacs. “And it actually takes back rights of Canadian passengers.”

Lukacs points to changes tarmac delays. Under current standards, passengers can only be kept on an airplane sitting on a tarmac for up to 90 minutes.

Under the new regulations, he says passengers would have to wait over three-and-a-half hours before being let off an airplane.

“They are doing it as a publicity stunt,” he says. “We launched last week a legal challenge to some portions of the regulations that actually violated Charter because of how it affects persons with disabilities and of how it takes away rights of passengers contrary to Parliament intent. This is their fast knee-jerk reaction to that.”

Starting July 15, passengers will have to be compensated up to $2,400 if they are denied boarding because a flight was overbooked and receive up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage. Compensation of up to $1,000 for delays and other payments for cancelled flights will take effect in December.


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