New air passenger protection kicks in across Canada on Thursday. What you need to know

Airlines will now be required to rebook passengers or issue a full refund for cancellations and delays, even if the reason is outside of the airline's control. As Tina Yazdani reports, it's welcome news for passengers, but airlines are pushing back.

By Erick Espinosa

Thursday marks the beginning of the new air passenger protection across Canada.

Federal rules have required airlines to compensate passengers for delayed or cancelled flights when those disruptions happen for reasons the airlines themselves can control.

The COVID-19 pandemic only highlighted the ability of airlines to deny passengers compensation for hotels or delayed flights by simply referencing staffing, weather or safety and COVID-19-related issues.

Under the new regulations taking effect on September 8, 2022, airlines will be required to rebook a passenger affected by a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to a situation outside the airline’s control on a flight leaving within 48 hours of the departure time indicated on the passenger’s original ticket.

RELATED: WestJet denied Canadian traveller compensation for a delayed flight. How he managed to get refunded

If the airline cannot provide a confirmed reservation for a flight leaving within this 48-hour period, it will be required to provide a refund or rebooking at the passenger’s choice.

When a passenger receives a refund, the airline will be required to refund the unused portion of their ticket, including any new add-on services paid for; this includes a preferred seat selection or additional checked luggage.

If an air travel-related dispute cannot be resolved directly by a passenger and an airline, officials said the passenger could make a complaint to the CTA.

Many believe this still falls short of providing solid protections — especially those who expect to travel for a short period.

Passenger rights regulations don’t address flight disruptions: airlines

However, the changes aren’t being welcomed by all.

Jeff Morrison, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, feels airlines are being singled out.

“So the fact that these expanded regulations are putting responsibility solely on the airlines is not going to address, or improve, or minimize flight disruptions, which is really, at the end of the day, what we all want,” he said.

“The problem with (the new regulations), aside from the fact that it’s really just very unfair, because of course there are multiple, multiple organizations and entities in the air travel experience, including customs officers, the navigation system, the airport itself, and have been the cause of many of the disruptions we’ve seen over the summer.”

Morrison says airlines should not have to be accountable for “everything within the air travel system,” adding the position that they should “is faulty.”

“There is a certain frustration, and I think it is, in part, because of the fact that there is really a lack of understanding about the complexity of air travel in Canada, including sometimes, we feel, on the part of the federal government,” he told CityNews.

The new regulations come after travellers across Canada faced major delays and lineups at airports over the summer and longer.

Much of the disruptions were caused by staffing shortages affecting not only airlines but also security and border personnel.

There have also been many complaints about baggage pileups and lost items as airports welcomed back larger crowds as travel ramped up after many pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Files from Sonia Aslam and Hana Mae Nassar were used in this report

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