Air Passengers' Bill of Rights
An Act respecting the rights of air passengers
José Nunez-Melo NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
Subscribe to a feed of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-459.
- March 27, 2013 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
The Conservative Government
Statements By Members
April 15th, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
José Nunez-Melo Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, March 28 was a dark day for the House of Commons. On that day, three important bills were arbitrarily rejected by the Conservative caucus.
The Conservative caucus overwhelmingly voted down the good intentions of providing justice and giving the Government of Canada the opportunity to do the right thing and support some just and worthy causes. Bill C-380 would have prohibited imports of shark fins. Bill C-459 would have helped consumers, in particular air passengers. Bill C-464 would have supported Canadian mothers in the event of multiple births.
On March 28, the ignorance of our honourable government colleagues was on display again. Even worse, they failed to grasp the negative consequences for which they will be held to account in the next election.
Air Passengers' Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business
March 27th, 2013 / 6:35 p.m.
The House resumed from March 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-459, An Act respecting the rights of air passengers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business
March 22nd, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC
Mr. Speaker, my colleague's bill addresses a significant need in Canada regarding the rights of air passengers.
This issue can affect all Canadians, anyone who uses air travel. Indeed, some problems that can arise during a flight do not happen in other forms of travel. Whether it involves a cancelled or delayed flight, lost baggage, or if boarding is denied, these things can happen to anyone.
Many incidents can arise during air travel. Accordingly, passengers' rights need to be protected any time airlines are treating their passengers unfairly. Compensation rules and requirements for the carriers need to be imposed in order to ensure that travellers are not put at a disadvantage.
The bill places obligations on air carriers to provide compensation and other assistance to passengers in certain cases when a flight has been cancelled or delayed, when boarding has been denied, and when an aircraft has remained on the ground for a period of more than an hour at an airport.
It also requires air carriers to disclose all relevant information to the public regarding the pricing of flights and to keep passengers informed regarding any misplaced baggage and any developments in respect of their flights that could have a significant impact on their travel plans.
These rights apply in certain situations. First of all, when a flight is cancelled, passengers have the right to be reimbursed or re-routed to their final destination. They are entitled to meals based on the length of the delay, and to accommodation, if necessary. They are entitled to compensation in the amount of $250 to $600, unless the flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances or if passengers agree to be re-routed.
Second, when travellers are denied boarding as a result of overbooking on the part of an airline, passengers are entitled to compensation in the amount of $250 to $600, as well as any benefits offered by the airline.
Third, when a flight is delayed, passengers are entitled to meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time, as well as accommodation, if necessary.
Fourth, when baggage is misplaced, passengers are entitled to $500 in compensation.
Fifth, when the advertised price is wrong, airlines must include all costs to be assumed by the airline, as well as all duties, fees and taxes that they collect on behalf of other parties.
This bill takes a page from European legislation that has been in place for several years. It must be said that we are lagging far behind in that respect. European regulations establish compensation for passengers when they have problems with air transportation.
If a flight is overbooked or cancelled, the passenger is entitled to financial compensation. Airlines are always required to provide assistance.
This month, the European Commission announced a number of measures to provide air passengers with new rights and better access to good information and assistance when they are stranded at an airport.
New procedures to handle complaints and new enforcement measures are also included in order for passengers to obtain what they are entitled to. Oversight of airlines by domestic and European authorities will be strengthened.
Even persons with disabilities are better served under the rules established by the European Union. The regulations adopted in 2006 are based on the simple principle that persons with disabilities should have the same opportunity to travel by air.
The regulations on the rights of people with reduced mobility when using air transport prohibits operators from refusing to make a reservation or board passengers because of a disability. However, there are some exceptions due to safety reasons established by law.
The person with reduced mobility must be informed of the refusal, together with the reasons, within five days of making the reservation.
Persons with disabilities are also entitled to obtain, from airport authorities, free assistance at airports and aboard aircraft. These services are funded by a levy collected from the airline companies. European Union countries also impose penalties and have independent organizations to deal with complaints.
This is the approach we should take in Canada, given how successful the common rules for the compensation of air passengers instituted by the European Union in 2004 have been.
If Europeans have such rights, then Canadians should have them too. Europeans do not hesitate to exercise their rights when they feel they have a valid complaint against an airline.
Whether passengers have been denied boarding or downgraded, or their flight has been significantly delayed or cancelled, these are forms of abuse, and we must legislate to prevent them from happening again. If people think that they have a legitimate complaint against an airline because they have been denied boarding or downgraded, or their flight has been significantly delayed or cancelled, they must be able to exercise their rights without any hesitation.
It is simply a matter of logic. Travellers should receive a refund or compensation for their trip if it is cancelled. Consequently, travellers must have access to clear rules regarding refunds or compensation in the event that the airline changes their travel itinerary without two weeks' notice. Otherwise, many Canadian families' vacations will end up being disrupted simply because of an airline's bad practices.
If airlines do not honour their commitments, they must compensate travellers. This bill is a good approach in terms of respectful relations between airlines and travellers.
We need to put rules in place to protect the rights of consumers by working with airlines. Quite frankly, some airlines have really good practices. Others, however, quite commonly engage in practices that are harmful to consumers, such as overbooking and cancelling flights.
When such situations occur, it is important to ensure that travellers are compensated by the airline. Reasonable compensation for travellers would be provided depending on the situation and the damage done, without creating false expectations on the part of the traveller.
It is true that some airlines already have good compensation practices in place, but that is not the case for all of them. This bill would penalize only the airlines that take advantage of consumers.
It is common practice among some airlines to offer refunds only to passengers who are refused boarding. When flights are overbooked, which happens often, people are not usually reimbursed. Bill C-459 would also provide compensation to passengers who end up in that situation, based on the distance of the flight in question.
I already hear the Conservatives saying that no one can control the weather, that not all the blame can be put on the airlines and that some of the responsibility lies elsewhere.
That is why this bill allows for exceptions when it is not the airline's fault. For example, passengers will not receive compensation in the case of a cancelled flight caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided. In the case of extraordinary circumstances, airlines do not have to provide the compensation set out in Bill C-459.
That is the essence of the bill that would create a fairer relationship between passengers and airlines, something that has existed in Europe for many years. It will be particularly beneficial to middle-class Canadian families and SME owners. Whether we are talking about a family vacation, a business trip or any other kind of travel, passengers will not end up powerless and will have rights.
There is currently a serious legislative gap to be filled, and the bill introduced by my colleague from Laval fills the major gap we have in Canada. We must ultimately ensure that passengers are properly compensated when there is a problem at the airport.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business
March 22nd, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-459.
From our party's perspective, we support the bill going to committee. I do not think members should be surprised by that, because a number of years ago, a similar motion was brought to the House, which was supported by all political parties.
For many years we have seen a great deal of consumer frustration with airlines. Once one gets to the airport, there are problems getting onto the aircraft and with departures, arrivals and luggage. There have been a litany of horror stories, and they continue today. There are significant issues that need to be addressed.
If we are able to get Bill C-459 to committee stage and to possibly make some amendments, it would actually give it some teeth. In that sense, consumers across Canada would benefit immensely. The Liberal Party would like to see the bill go to committee.
First, just to illustrate our concerns, a colleague of mine introduced a motion in 2008. It was M-465. It is a very short motion, which I will read into the record:
That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the United States for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way and to provide a means of ensuring adequate compensation...by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.
This motion was brought forward by the Liberal party by one of my colleagues back in April 2008. What is most interesting is that at the time, it passed the House unanimously. All political parties were supportive of the motion, and justifiably so. If we were to canvass our constituents, we would find wide support for motions, bills or legislation of this nature. We were encouraged that it actually garnered the support of all parties in the House.
Not that much later, the government attempted to bring in legislation that they referred to as “flight rights Canada”. It was a government initiative and was an attempt to deal with the issue. However, there was a serious flaw. There really were no regulations that followed that provided some teeth.
As a result, we see the types of issues raised five, six or seven years ago being raised today. In part, it is because the government has decided that it is not an important enough issue for Canadians.
That is why I was interested in the previous speaker saying that the Conservatives did not believe there was a need to support this bill. I would disagree. The Conservatives have very little to lose by at least allowing the bill to go to committee where we could possibly amend it.
The reason I read the motion to remind members was to reinforce the fact that there was a time in which MPs of all political parties supported the importance of consumer rights within our airline industry. It would appear that the Conservative Party is starting to back away in terms of recognizing those consumer rights. Therefore, I encourage the government to give more reflection and consider the benefits to consumers by at the very least allowing the bill to go to committee.
Bill C-459 had been introduced in another form, by the former member for Elmwood—Transcona, someone I knew reasonably well from the House and from serving together in the Manitoba legislature. From what Mr. Maloway talked about when he introduced his bill, it is fair to say that Canadians responded well to it. For that the reason, I reinforce the fact that not only would people from Winnipeg benefit, as I represent Winnipeg residents, and Mr. Maloway used to as a member of Parliament, but it would benefit people far beyond Winnipeg or Manitoba.
Our busiest airports, whether Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal or Halifax, coast to coast, all have significant increase in traffic. Looking to the future, as airline tickets continue to be reasonably affordable on a larger scale as more consumers find themselves in a position where they can afford to fly, the demand for this type of legislation, if crafted correctly, would be of great value and benefit. That is the reason we need to look at how we can bring in legislation that would protect the interests of the consumers.
When a flight has been cancelled or delayed, there are circumstances beyond an airline's control. An example of that would be a number of weeks when we get whiteouts, or snowstorms or things that are beyond the ability of airlines to control. It is understandable that we would see airlines being cancelled or delayed.
Then again, there are other issues that cause passengers a great deal of concern in why a flight has been delayed yet another hour or two hours. It might relate to maintenance and to what degree proper diligence was done by the airline, or the amount of time which one had to spend due to misplaced luggage. My son's mother-in-law came for a visit from the States and had her luggage all torn up, and it had to be wrapped in plastic. The luggage was replaced.
Very real issues are happening in that whole industry. It is an industry that will be growing into the future. It would be wonderful to have legislation and regulations to protect consumers. Not only would Winnipeg North residents want to see something of that nature, I argue all Canadians would welcome consumer-friendly airline industry legislation and regulations.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights
Private Members' Business
March 22nd, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House of Commons on private member's Bill C-459, an act respecting the rights of air passengers, which was introduced in this chamber in November of last year. Our government strongly supports consumer protection measures, however, the bill is fundamentally flawed and would likely have impacts contrary to what it seeks to achieve. Furthermore, it is redundant given the passenger protection approach that already exists in Canada and this government's effort to strengthen it in recent years.
Let me start by noting that the bill calls for all-in advertising. I am pleased to remind the House that our Conservative government has already put in place these measures by way of regulations that were brought into force in December 2012, following extensive consultation with industry, consumers and other stakeholders.
Beyond that, Bill C-459 proposes a prescriptive regime that would increase the regulatory burden on air carriers and on travellers. It would introduce additional costs into our air transport system and it would not improve the passenger protection approach that already exists in this country. In Canada today, airline passengers are protected through provisions in the Canada Transportation Act. All carriers operating in Canada, or arriving or departing from Canada, are required to develop terms and conditions of carriage that they must respect. They must make those terms and conditions readily accessible to passengers.
The Air Transportation Regulations under the act specify the items that must be included in the terms and conditions of carriage, such as the carrier's policies regarding cancelled or delayed flights, lost or damaged luggage, and denied boarding due to overbooking. This establishes a clear basis on which passengers can raise concerns if they feel they have not been treated appropriately.
The Canadian Transportation Agency is mandated to resolve travellers' complaints by examining whether the carriers are acting in compliance with their terms and conditions of carriage and by assessing the reasonableness of the terms and conditions. The act also includes significant provisions to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.
If a traveller is not able to resolve his or her issues directly with the carrier and submits a formal complaint to the agency, the agency would begin by seeking a mutually satisfactory solution to the problem by way of alternative dispute resolution. If this is not successful, arbitration is an option. We know that in fact most complaints are resolved by way of mediation. In some instances, the agency has found that a carrier's terms and conditions of carriage are not reasonable, resulting in significant changes to the benefit of passengers. Recent such decisions have addressed questions such as lost baggage and denied boarding.
In short, our current system works. Furthermore, it does so because of the proactive stance that our Conservative government has taken on passenger rights.
In 2007, we took action to strengthen the consumer protection regime for air travellers by introducing measures as part of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. These amendments improved the transparency of carriers' terms and conditions of carriage and made the complaint process under the Canadian Transportation Agency permanent.
In 2008, we introduced Flight Rights Canada, an initiative to inform Canadians of their rights under the act. This also resulted in the creation of a plain language voluntary code of practice, which our major carriers adopted into their terms and conditions of carriage. I have already mentioned the airfare advertising regulations brought into force last year.
The prescriptive regulatory regime proposed in C-459 is not consistent with Canada's approach to consumer protection in transport. As written, the bill raises a number of questions and creates systems that would ultimately increase the burden on all parties.
To begin with, the proposed bill would only empower the agency to enforce provisions relating to duty to disclose pricing, announcements at airports and obligations to inform passengers of their rights at check-in. With respect to other matters such as cancellations, delays and denied boarding, consumers would seemingly have to seek redress through the courts if they are not satisfied with a carrier's response. This would be costly, time-consuming and a burden on the passengers as well as on the Canadian court system.
Bill C-459 seeks to address concerns that were identified with previous private members' bills on this subject, which made air carriers responsible for problems that are the fault of other parties, such as airports or navigation providers.
However, the current bill would introduce a new regulatory burden, namely that carriers would need to make a submission to the Canadian Transportation Agency proving the third party's responsibility. This would result in more red tape for the carriers and more work for the agency. The additional costs, obviously, would likely be borne by travellers and taxpayers.
Furthermore, the bill would recognize that carriers would not be made responsible for cancellations arising as a result of force majeure, particularly weather. The carriers would remain responsible for the situation resulting from force majeure, such as airport or tarmac delays, and we all know that weather is a major factor in this country.
The bill would create confusion between its provisions and the current provisions of the Canada Transportation Act. There is also potential conflict between Bill C-459 and the Carriage by Air Act, which brings into force passengers' rights provisions enshrined in the Montreal convention, an international treaty to which Canada is a party.
In conclusion, we are committed to promoting passengers' rights by way of an approach that minimizes costs and regulatory burden on all travellers in the air industry.
Bill C-459 would add nothing to this, but it does have the potential to significantly increase the regulatory burden and cost to Canada's air transportation sector and to create confusion within the regulatory regime without further addressing passenger needs.
For this reason, we cannot support Bill C-459.
The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-459, An Act respecting the rights of air passengers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights
Private Members’ Business
February 7th, 2013 / 6:05 p.m.
Annick Papillon Québec, QC
The Air Passengers' Bill of Rights proposes implementing a new regulation that will better protect the rights of air passengers when they are treated unfairly by airlines. In fact, Bill C-459 could protect Canadians from the time they purchase their plane ticket until they arrive at their destination.
To quickly summarize the provisions of Bill C-459, the new regulation would require air carriers to compensate passengers if their flight has been overbooked or delayed for a long time or if their luggage is lost. This bill is based on a European law that greatly reduces delays and problems with overbooking. The Air Passengers' Bill of Rights applies to all air carriers, including Canadian carriers that land on European soil. Why should Canadians be treated better in Europe than they are at home?
I have heard many stories about airline employees who bend over backwards to help passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled, and I would even like to personally thank a number of Canadian airline companies for the outstanding service they provide every time I travel. Unfortunately, passengers continue to be the victims of the poor practices of certain air carriers.
Many of these stories are well known. Someone buys a plane ticket and, upon their arrival at the airport, they find out that their flight has been overbooked and that, unfortunately, it is already full. That person must then wait for hours for the next flight. Or, without any explanation, passengers are forced to wait for hours before they are able to board the plane and, because of that delay, they miss their connecting flights. Other passengers have boarded the plane, only to wait for an hour or longer without anything to eat or drink before the plane takes off. These situations are unacceptable, and it is time to change the regulations in order to ensure that passengers' patience is not pushed beyond the limit unnecessarily.
Last December, the NDP questioned the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to find out whether the government would agree to a law regarding the rights of air passengers. The minister's response focused on aspects that are beyond air carriers' control. This is what he said:
...it is nice to hear that the NDP has a solution for snowstorms, ice storms and all other unforeseen circumstances at airports.
I think that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities should take the time to carefully read Bill C-459. The minister is implying that the problem with this bill is that it makes airlines responsible for weather-related cancellations and delays. He will be happy to hear that this bill copies verbatim the exemption included in European legislation that exonerates airlines in extraordinary circumstances. This exemption has been used successfully in Europe for many years.
The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities implied that Bill C-459 would make airlines responsible for weather-related cancellations and delays, but that is untrue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bill C-459 does not require airlines to compensate passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled because of the weather. A flight that was cancelled because of the weather is considered an extraordinary circumstance, and as I already explained, this is set out in the bill introduced by my colleague from Laval. He wisely thought of everything.
The European Union commissioned a study two years after it implemented its legislation. I am sure my colleagues on the other side would love to hear the results of this study. The study concluded that European airlines extensively used the extraordinary circumstances argument to avoid compensating passengers. However, all of the stakeholders agreed that the extraordinary circumstances exemption nevertheless struck a good balance between a passenger's right to compensation and fairness to the airlines.
Under Bill C-459, all that an air carrier is required to do in a case of cancellation due to weather is: reimburse or reroute each passenger, which is reasonable; offer meals and refreshments in relation to the waiting time, nothing wrong with that; and provide hotel accommodation in cases where a stay of one or more nights is required. There is nothing here that is unreasonable for an air carrier to do.
That said, it is important to recognize that many airlines already offer passengers good compensation. The purpose of this bill is not to attack the airlines, but rather to level the playing field for carriers and penalize only those companies that try to fleece customers in order to increase their profits. That is the difference.
Companies that follow the regulations will not have to pay. However, those that make a profit at the expense of passengers will have to compensate travellers for their mismanagement. It is as simple as that.
Why should customers not expect better service? Why should passengers not be informed of flight changes, delays and cancellations under penalty to the airlines? Why should the new rules not be posted at the airline counter to inform customers of their rights and the process to file for compensation? Why should the public not expect all-in-one pricing so they know the total cost of the flight before they click the “buy” button?
These are simple, obvious measures. There is no doubt that this is a good bill. I invite all of my colleagues in the House to vote in favour of Bill C-459.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights
Private Members’ Business
February 7th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the House regarding Bill C-459, the air passengers' bill of rights, which would establish terms and conditions including compensation and rerouting for the treatment of air passengers under various circumstances when air travel is cancelled, delayed, or baggage is misplaced.
This is a big country and as a result Canadians travel more by air than most people elsewhere. Many of us have experienced situations where our flight was delayed or cancelled due to weather conditions, mechanical issues or other reasons that we may not understand. Occasionally the delivery of luggage may be delayed due to tight connections, mishandling, malfunctions and various human factors. That is the key part.
People make mistakes every now and then. We do not like them, but they are a fact of life. Sometimes as passengers we feel we have not been treated fairly. We all find these situations frustrating. I have been there and I am sure all members have. One thing should be noted though. We are fortunate that in Canada there is a mechanism that provides passengers with a means to address these situations efficiently without engaging in onerous or costly legal wrangling.
Consumers have the right to expect to be treated fairly by airlines and therefore a process is in place for the impartial investigation of concerns. In particular, this means that a passenger, who has been inconvenienced and feels that his or her concerns have not been addressed adequately by the airline, can choose to file a formal complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency. The agency is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that has a mandate to review unresolved consumer complaints against air carriers and to assist consumers to the extent possible.
Please allow me now to describe the regime that exists in Canada for the protection of air passengers' rights. As I have noted, Canada's policy for airline passenger consumer protection is based on a complaints-driven process. The carriers are expected to comply with their terms and conditions of carriage, which must be made readily available to the passenger. The terms and conditions of carriage are set out in carriers' policies with respect to important consumer protection matters including, but not restricted to, acceptance, loss and damage of baggage, taxes and fees, reimbursement, claims, flight cancellations, et cetera.
Air carriers are required to publish their terms and conditions of carriage on their websites and to live by these terms and conditions. This is enshrined in legislation through specific provisions in the Canada Transportation Act. If a passenger feels that a carrier is not respecting its terms and conditions of carriage, he or she should begin by bringing a complaint first to the airline. As I mentioned earlier, if not satisfied with the airline's response, passengers may then take their complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is empowered to provide recourse.
In 2007, our government took action to strengthen Canada's consumer protection regime for air travellers by introducing measures as part of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, which improved the transparency of carriers' terms and conditions of carriage and made the complaints process under the Canadian Transportation Agency permanent.
During the same period, our government introduced Flight Rights Canada, an initiative to inform the travelling public of the consumer protection approach that we have in place in Canada, their rights under this approach and how they can seek redress if something goes wrong when they are travelling by air. Flight Rights Canada included a six-point, plain language code of conduct defining service standards.
Canada's largest airlines have adopted these standards into their terms and conditions of carriage. They are now accountable for them as they are for all their terms and conditions of carriage. As my colleagues have no doubt noticed, Bill C-459 also includes provisions that regulate full fare advertising. On this issue, I am pleased to remind hon. members that this government has already taken action with the recently announced all-inclusive airfare advertising regulations.
On December 14, 2012, new air services price advertising regulations came into force that required any person who advertised the price of an air service to display the total price, inclusive of all taxes, fees and charges when selling flights within or originating in Canada. That is something I have experienced. Individuals book a flight, they think they have a price and all of a sudden all the other little things get added to it and it is not what they thought it was at the start. That is no more, thanks to this government.
The two key objectives of this new regulation are to enable consumers to readily determine the total price of an advertised air service and to promote fair competition between all advertisers in the air travel industry. When Canadians are travelling by air, they expect to be treated fairly by their carrier, as well as to be able to readily determine the full price of the air services they are purchasing.
Hon. colleagues must consider this private member's bill with prudence, as we cannot overturn the current policy by implementing a prescriptive and more burdensome framework. The bill could result in consumers having to take their cases to court in certain situations, as well as changes to the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency. It could translate into more red tape and costs to the taxpayer. That is the last thing we need.
Furthermore, elements of the bill could potentially have significant financial implications for airlines, which would translate into higher costs for travellers. This is not what we want. For example, while the bill recognizes that airlines should not be held responsible for incidents that are caused by third parties, such as air navigation service providers or airports, the onus could be on the carriers to prove that this is the case in a submission to the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Similarly, under the bill, carriers would not be responsible for cancellations caused by weather, which is a major factor in our country. However, again, they could be placed in a situation where they would have to prove this by way of submissions to the agency. All of this would result in additional work and cost for both the airline and the agency. I need not remind members that higher costs to carriers would definitely translate into higher fares for air travel.
Let me underscore that this government is, as always, firmly committed to promoting a healthy Canadian air industry, without compromising the protection of the rights of Canadians. We have a robust system for protecting air passengers' rights and this government is proud to reiterate that it has taken steps to reinforce this and will continue to do so.
We do not have a perfect system, but it is a pretty good one. The bill would definitely make it worse, not better.
Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights
Private Members’ Business
February 7th, 2013 / 5:50 p.m.
Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in support of Bill C-459, introduced by my colleague from Laval, which would create the air passengers' bill of rights.
The aim of the bill is simple. It is fair and will protect consumers. In short, air travellers deserve to have clear rules around compensation and reimbursement when their travel plans change without two weeks notice. The bill would do just that.
The bill addresses five situations that may affect air passengers and provides details of how consumers will be compensated in those situations.
First, when a flight is cancelled, passengers would have the right to choose between being reimbursed and being rerouted to their final destination. They would also have the right to meals in a reasonable relation to the waiting time, as well as accommodation if necessary. They would be entitled to between $250 and $600 in compensation, depending on the situation unless the flight was cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances or if they agreed to be rerouted.
Second, if a passenger was denied boarding because of the air carrier overbooking the flight, the passenger would be entitled to receive between $250 and $600 in compensation in addition to any benefits offered by the airline.
Third, if a flight were to be delayed, every passenger would be entitled to meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time and to accommodation when necessary.
Fourth, If a passenger's bag was lost, and this happens quite often unfortunately, the passenger would be entitled to $500 in compensation.
Finally, if passed, the bill will require airlines to include all costs to the carrier of providing the service, as well as fees, charges and taxes it collects on behalf of another person or business and would apply administrative penalties to air carriers who did not comply with this requirement.
How would this work in practice? I will use two examples.
The first example is someone is booked to go on a vacation to the Caribbean. I know that might be hard to imagine, especially when the weather networks right now are talking about all the snow that Ontario will receive. When that person arrives at the airport, he or she is informed that the carrier has now overbooked the flight. To try and solve the problem, the airline asks all passengers if any of them are willing to take another flight in return for a reduction on the ticket price that they have already paid. Since not enough travellers are willing to change their flights, our vacationer is denied boarding.
If the bill were passed, our traveller will receive an amount of $250 to $600 in compensation, depending on the length of the trip, as well as either being rerouted to his or her destination or having the full cost of the flight reimbursed.
In the second situation a traveller's flight is cancelled and he or she is stuck at the airport, while waiting for the next flight to arrive. After several hours of waiting at the airport, the airline then informs the passenger that his or her flight would not be available until the following day. In this case, the “right to care” set out in Bill C-459 means that if the bill were to become law, the air carrier will be required to offer meals and refreshments, accommodation, transportation between the airport and the place of accommodation and a total of two telephone calls, faxes or emails per passenger.
Our aim is not to vilify or punish air carriers. Many air carriers already have very good compensation policies and customer service.
I found myself stuck in Winnipeg a couple of weeks ago when it was so cold. The main cabin door was frozen and could not be shut. We had very good customer service and the carrier looked after all of the passengers on that flight.
There is no consistency across the industry. We need that type of consistency to protect consumers, small businesses and business travellers. The bill would create that consistency.
A similar system has been in place in the European Union since 2004, where the common rules for the compensation of air passengers in these situations was put in place across the EU member states.
All that the bill would do is build on the success achieved in Europe by identifying the best practices that have been put in place across the Atlantic and implement them here in Canada.
These are simple rules that would protect consumers. For this reason, I am very upset by the suggestion we hear from the other side of the House that Conservative MPs will not be supporting the bill. When the NDP has questioned the government as to whether it will support the bill, it has attempted to deflect by focusing on weather difficulties or extraordinary circumstances as a way to avoid supporting the bill.
I would, therefore, like it on the record right now that Bill C-459 explicitly states that air carriers would not be required to offer compensation for such circumstances; specifically, paragraph 4(1)(c), and subsections 4(2) and 4(3) of the bill cover this exemption. If the Conservatives focus on imagined problems as a reason to not support the bill, it is clear that they therefore do not properly understand the legislation in front of them today or that they are looking to find excuses not to support it.
In conclusion, it is clear that ensuring that consumers are protected in one of those five situations outlined in the bill is a relatively easy way for the government to improve upon the rather lacking federal consumer protection regime. For that reason, I ask all members from all parties to support this initiative and to support the bill.