With airline passenger rights in the spotlight after a series of high profile incidents, including the recent forcible removal of a U.S. doctor on an United Airlines flight, the government of Canada has introduced legislation designed to “provide a better experience for travellers…”


While not yet specifically detailed, measures are expected address overbooking practices by airlines, lost bags and delays – all the bane of the travelling public.


After a year of consultation with consumers and stakeholders, the proposed Transportation Modernization Act (which also addresses Canada’s freight rail system) promises “transparency, system efficiency and fairness.” Key air measures include:


-        establishing new air passenger rights;


-        liberalizing international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers to provide travellers with more choice through increased competition.


“In a vast nation like Canada, Canadians rely on economically viable modes of transportation to travel... The time has come to modernize our policies and practices to provide a safer, more competitive and respectful system that can respond to modern conditions and to Canadians’ expectations,” said transport minister Marc Garneau. “When Canadians purchase an airline ticket, they expect the airline to provide the service that they paid for and to be treated with respect. When things don’t go the way they are planned, travellers deserve clear, transparent, fair and consistent compensation.”


The so-called passenger bill of rights is expected to come into effect in 2019.


Both Air Canada and WestJet welcomed the initiative.


“We believe it is in the interest of all parties to create a more predictable and fair system that applies to all airlines operating in Canada, which is not currently the case,” said Air Canada in a statement, further noting, “The proposed amendments to the legislative provisions governing joint ventures in the airline industry should facilitate the opening up of new markets by Air Canada and its joint venture partners and accelerate projects that are currently under consideration…”


WestJet, meanwhile, urged the government “to address all aspects of the travel experience, particularly those beyond the control of airlines such as lengthy wait times for passenger screening and customs,” with airline VP Mike McNaney adding, "We believe that any effort to improve the guest's travel experience must take into account all aspects of that experience, in particular those services provided by the federal government."   




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