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New regulations protect airlines, not passengers, says advocate

The changes, announced by the federal government this week, will be implemented in two phases later this year
(stock photo)

The changes, announced by the federal government this week, will be implemented in two phases later this year.

But Canadian air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lucaks says the new rules fall short.

"This is an airline protection regulation, not a passenger protection regulation," Lucaks tells NEWS 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show.

The new rules focus on three main areas: tarmac delays, denied boarding, and flight cancellations.

"[They're] more than doubling the time that passengers can be kept on the tarmac," Lucaks says. "From the Canadian standard of 90 minutes that has been in place since 2008, to 3 hours and 45 minutes."

Although Lucaks says the proposed regulations surrounding flight cancellations and denied boarding are good in theory, he thinks it will be hard for passengers to prove they deserve compensation.

"In the vast majority of the cases, passengers will get no compensation at all when they are bumped from a flight," he says. "The only time passengers are going to see money is if the airline admits something was within their control."

The monetary amounts set out in the rules are lofty, which will make most Canadians feel protected -- until they try to make a claim.

The Canadian Transportation Agency set prices at up to $2,400 for bumping a passenger from a flight, up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage, and up to $1,000 for flight delays and cancellations within an airline's control.

"They think that people are going to be fooled by the figures. $2,400, that's a lot of money, and if passengers were actually entitled to that money it would be great," he says.

But Lucaks says passengers won't be able to prove why the airline bumped them from a flight.

"It's not enough to show that you were at the airport on time, that you had a confirmed ticket, that you had all your travel documents with you," he says. "You will also have to show that the reason you weren't allowed to fly is that the flight was overbooked, and that would require access to the airline's reservation system."

Lucaks says the new rules will put Canadian airline standards below those set out by other countries and the European Union.

"This is clearly a way of shortchanging Canadians, and these anti-passenger regulations leave us far behind the European Union's gold standard for air passenger protection," he says. "The government actually gives the airline a carte blanche to refuse paying compensation."

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Friday that the first wave of regulations will come into effect beginning July 15, with a second round later this year on December 15 -- after the federal election.

"One of my main efforts now is that Canadians should be asking candidates in their riding how they are going to fix what the current government clearly botched," Lucaks adds. "These are regulations by the airlines for the airlines, and rubber stamped by the government."

Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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