The airline industry has won the right to appeal Canada’s new rules that govern how airlines must treat passengers who face delays, cancelled flights or lost luggage.
The Federal Court of Appeal on Thursday granted several airlines, including Air Canada, Porter Airlines and the industry group International Air Transport Association, the right to jointly appeal the air passenger bill of rights.
The first phase of the new law went into effect on July 15, requiring airlines to pay up to $2,400 for bumping a customer for reasons within the airline’s control; provide compensation of as much as $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage; and allow passengers to leave a plane that is delayed on the tarmac for more than three hours with no chance of an imminent departure.
The second phase, which goes into effect on Dec. 15, requires airlines to pay up to $1,000 a passenger for non-safety-related flight delays or cancellations that are within a carriers’ control; provide food, drinks and accommodations to delayed passengers; and seat children younger than 14 near their accompanying adult at no extra charge.
The rules apply to all flights originating or ending in Canada and cover domestic and international carriers.
The airlines sought permission to appeal the rules on the basis they contain provisions – including compensation that exceeds actual passengers losses – that are contrary to an international agreement airlines reached in 1999, known as the Montreal Convention. The industry also argued Canada has no authority to impose the rules on foreign carriers.
The respondents in the appeal, the Attorney-General of Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency, replied to the airline industry’s application to appeal in a July letter to the court, saying the rules were the result of consultations with the airline industry, consumers groups and other stakeholders.
“The objective was to put in place clearer and more consistent passenger rights by establishing minimum standards of treatment … and minimum levels of compensation that all airlines must provide," the letter said, asserting the challenge to the rules “must fail on the merits.”
Before the new rules came into force, passengers who felt they were wronged by airlines relied on a patchwork of government, industry and airline rules, practices – and, in many cases, their own negotiating skills to settle with a carrier.
As is customary, the Federal Court of Appeal did not issue reasons for its decision. No date for a trial has been set.
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