Agency Decisions Increase Rights and Remedies for Passengers Travelling with Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat

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OTTAWA – June 28, 2012 –

In five separate decisions released today, the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled on the reasonableness of international tariff provisions of Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, and domestic tariff provisions of Air Canada and WestJet relating to the overbooking, cancellation, delay and rerouting of flights.

Passengers should be able to fully understand their rights and the remedies available to them simply by reading the tariff, which is the contract between the carrier and the passenger. When considering the reasonableness of a carrier’s tariff, the Agency strikes a balance between the rights of passengers to be subject to reasonable terms and conditions of carriage and the carrier’s statutory, commercial and operational obligations.  

Tariffs are governed by the Canada Transportation Act, the Air Transportation Regulations and the Montreal Convention. The Agency evaluated the tariffs in light of these instruments.

The air carrier sets its terms and conditions of carriage on the basis of its own interests, which may have their basis in purely commercial requirements. There is no presumption that a tariff is reasonable. In today’s decisions, the Agency considered what measures were reasonable for carriers to take when the overbooking and cancellation of flights are within their control. 

Prior to these decisions, the tariffs of the three air carriers were more restrictive with regards to passenger rights. For example, when flights were overbooked or cancelled, the options for rebooking as well as choice for a refund versus rebooking was at the discretion of the carrier. As for situations in which a refund was warranted, the tariffs only provided for a refund of the unused portion of the tickets.

Today’s decisions increase the rights and remedies for passengers travelling with Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat. In the event a flight is delayed, overbooked or cancelled, passengers can now choose whether they prefer a refund or to be rebooked. In certain cases, carriers must consider rebooking passengers on the first available flight(s), including flights with non-partnered carriers. If overbooking or cancellation of a flight results in the passengers choosing to no longer travel, they will be entitled to a return flight home within a reasonable time, free of charge, and a full refund of the ticket price.

By applying consistency to the carriers’ international and domestic tariff provisions, the Agency is ensuring that consumers are protected while travelling with the airlines both within and to/from Canada.

Although WestJet and Air Transat already filed proposed tariff amendments that meet most of these enhanced passenger rights, the Agency’s Decision Nos. 249-C-A-2012, 248-C-A-2012 and 252-C-A-2012 found that certain proposed amendments remain unclear or unreasonable. Both air carriers have until July 28, 2012 to revise their tariffs to incorporate the ordered tariff amendments set out in these Decisions.

In Decisions Nos. 250-C-A-2012 and 251-C-A-2012, the Agency also found that certain tariff provisions are unreasonable and is directing Air Canada to make amendments to its tariff provisions on overbooking, cancellation, delay and rerouting .

As WestJet and Air Transat had already filed proposed tariff wording related to passenger rights, the Agency refers Air Canada to the Agency’s findings on the tariff language as set out in the other carriers’ decisions.  Air Canada has until August 12, 2012 to revise its tariffs in accordance with the Agency’s decisions. 

The Agency has the authority to address the terms and conditions of carriage for domestic traffic on complaint and for international traffic on complaint and its own motion. In these contexts, the Agency has the power to suspend, disallow or substitute the terms and conditions of carriage.

About the Canadian Transportation Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent administrative body of the Government of Canada. The Canadian Transportation Agency has a number of mechanisms in place and is helping to protect consumers by:

  • resolving disputes between members of the public and air carriers through facilitation, mediation or formal adjudication;
  • working with air carriers and members of the public to ensure that they are aware of their rights and obligations;
  • ensuring air carrier tariffs are compliant with Canadian legislation and regulations; and
  • working with the industry to remove obstacles to transportation to the mobility of persons with disabilities by resolving individual complaints and by developing codes of practice, standards and regulations for accessible transportation.

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For more information, consult the Backgrounder - Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat’s International Tariffs and Air Canada and WestJet’s Domestic Tariffs Decisions.

For more information on these cases, consult previous Agency decisions:

Air Canada

Decision LET-C-A-80-2011

Decision LET-C-A-129-2011 

WestJet

Decision LET-C-A-79-2011

Air Transat

Decision LET-C-A-78-2011

For more information on dispute resolution for air travellers, consult the Backgrounder: Dispute Resolution for Air Travellers

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