Dan Albas

Albas: Canada’s new passenger bill of rights

Overall I believe the majority of these changes will be welcome

Last week in the House of Commons the Liberal Government introduced what is being called the “Air Passenger Bill of Rights.” Technically these proposed changes are part of Bill C-49 “An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other Acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.”

What are some of these proposed changes? For the most part it is proposed to have more clear regulations for situations that may commonly arise when travelling by air.

Some examples are compensation minimums for denied boarding’s that arise from overbooking, delays or other cancellations. Guidelines also are proposed for lost or damaged luggage, even tarmac delays over an established length of time are now subject to this Bill. Other changes include children sitting next to a parent without an additional seat selection charge and standards for the safe transport of musical instruments.

Aside from these consumer friendly changes that I believe most air travelers will welcome there are also some proposed changes from an industry perspective. Most notable is that the current restriction on foreign ownership of a Canadian airline will be increased from the current level of twenty five percent up to forty nine percent. This change will not apply to specialty air services such as firefighting.

Another proposed change is new powers for the Transportation Minister to approve joint ventures between two or more different air carriers. This change is intended to help accommodate standard industry practices elsewhere and potentially to increase competition.

It is also proposed that airport security screening services provided by CATSA will now be supported on a cost recovery basis. The Government promotes this clause as allowing for an airport to pay for additional airport security screening services to help establish new routes. However it could also result in a form of downloading where airport operators are forced to pay for a larger share of security services that in turn increases the costs of air travel. Presently airports create significant revenues for the Federal Government from fees and charges that are already paid for by passengers. There is always a concern that some Canadians living near the border may instead use more price competitive alternatives at nearby USA airports. At this point more details and further clarification will be required.

My thoughts? One item I would like to see included would be an extended time frame for consumers who have airline credits to use those airline credits that currently expire within a fairly narrow window of time. Overall I believe the majority of these changes will be welcome while details on cost recovery for CATSA security services will need more clarification although in principle I am not opposed to cost recovery as a means of service delivery.

I welcome your comments, questions and concerns on the Transportation Modernization Act or any other subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

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