Know your rights
Canadian travellers should familiarize themselves with the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), which were developed by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and came into effect in 2019. The APPR covers flights to, from, and within Canada, including connecting flights.
Originally, the APPR stated that airlines only needed to compensate passengers who experienced flight disruptions if the problem was “within the carrier’s control.” But as travel returned post-pandemic, many airlines experienced crew shortages, which then resulted in cancelled and delayed flights. Airlines then claimed that this was beyond their control, leaving passengers stuck and without any compensation. This occurred so often that the CTA had to amend its rules.
In September 2022, new regulations were put into place for delays and cancellations outside of airline control. This includes factors such as weather, political instability, medical emergencies and more.
These new regulations indicate that should a flight be delayed three hours or more, or cancelled, the airline must provide affected passengers with a confirmed reservation on the next available flight. The flight can be offered by the same airline — or a partnered one — and must be within 48 hours of the original departure time. If the airline can’t do this, they are required to either provide a refund or make alternative arrangements for the passenger free of charge. For large airlines, this means rebooking the traveller on the next available flight on any airline, including competitors.
However, if the issue is outside of the airline’s control (like bad weather) the airline is not required to provide coverage for any additional costs such as food or lodging.
Furthermore, all refunds under the APPR must be received within 30 days and any vouchers or credits (which may be offered as an alternative to a refund) must not expire.
How to file a complaint
Situations where you may be eligible for filing a complaint include:
- Flight delays and cancellations
- Lost luggage
- Lack of accessible transportation for disabled or elderly
- Discrimination on the basis of race/religion/gender expression etc.
Should you be in a position where you need to request compensation or a refund from an airline, the first step is to go to the airline themselves. If the airline denies your claim, you can then file a complaint with the CTA. These claims require a lot of paperwork so make sure to keep all documents related to your flight. This includes the original flight details (flight number, airline, date and time), and any official notification that your flight has been changed.
It’s also handy to hold onto any receipts from food or accommodation that you needed to purchase as a result of the cancelled or delayed flight.
Under the APPR you have up to one year to make a claim (in writing) against the airline and the airline then has 30 days to respond by either issuing payment or explaining why compensation is not owed.
Loopholes and amendments
Still, many Canadians are finding themselves denied compensation. In these situations, travel insurance may come in handy. You’ll want to look for travel insurance that goes beyond the basic perk of allowing you to get health care outside of your home province. For example, travel insurance that includes flight delay insurance is ideal for those situations when the airline doesn’t have to cover the cost of accommodation or food while you wait. Baggage delay insurance is useful if the coverage offered by the airline doesn’t quite cover what you had to spend on clothing and toiletries while your luggage was missing. Each travel insurance provider differs, so ensure you read and understand the fine print.
Additionally, travellers to Europe can take advantage of Regulation EC No 261/2004. Under this protective regulation, passengers are legally entitled to 250 to 600 euros if they are denied boarding, bumped from their flight, have a delayed flight, or if the flight is cancelled.
All travellers should also be aware of the Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99). This treaty establishes airline liability in several cases, including flight disruption and delay, damage, or loss of baggage and cargo. For your best chance at receiving compensation, make sure to keep all flight and luggage related documents. You should also take photographs of your suitcase to have on hand showing the brand and colour. If you have receipts for the items in your luggage, submit those with the claim since airlines will always undervalue. That being said, there is a maximum claim of US$1,700 so be mindful of checking any valuables.
MC99 is a universal treaty meant to govern airline liability worldwide, so it is only applicable to international flights between countries that are part of the treaty. Again, make your claim with the airline first and emphasize the Montreal Convention. If you still have problems receiving compensation, take the claim to the CTA.
More tips for requesting compensation from airlines
The regulations above help you better understand when you should receive compensation or a refund from the airline. However, travellers and airline employees have a few other suggestions to help with the process.
Some Canadians are lucky in that they learn about their flight delay or cancellation well in advance. However, there are many others who find out that their flight has been cancelled or disrupted right before their time of travel.
Since this is a possibility, it’s best to arrive at the airport prepared for worst-case scenarios. This means bringing cash, purchasing travel insurance, and downloading the airline app with your ticketing information. You might also want to consider a tracking device like AirTags in the case of lost baggage.
Should you end up in a situation where you are seeking financial compensation, you’ll need to be patient. Erika Lange, who works in customer service for a Canadian airline, shares that generally speaking it should only take 30 days for travellers to receive their reimbursement. However, each claim is assessed by a specialist based on the APPR criteria. Due to both COVID-19 and the increased volume in claims, it’s taking longer than normal.
As frustrating as it is to have your travel plans disrupted please remember that it’s not the fault of the airport representative you will end up speaking to. Airlines are understaffed and taking your anger out on an employee just doing their job doesn’t fix the issue.
Kindness and patience go a long way during these frustrating times and, who knows, you might even be rewarded for it. Sarah Cook from Ottawa was.
Cook had a flight to Amsterdam to catch Ed Sheeran in concert in July, but ended up being bumped off her flight back to Canada. She called Air Canada and nicely asked the assisting agent what had happened and how she could get back home. The airline agent told her that the original flight was fully booked and asked if she had any flexibility in her return date. Cook agreed to leave a day later than originally planned and was upgraded to business class as a thank you for her patience and willingness to be flexible.
Automatically apply coupon codes for free - it’s kinda genius
Capital One Shopping’s browser add-on automatically applies coupon codes as you shop online. It also alerts you whenever there's a better deal available from another retailer. It’s absolutely free – plus it takes only two clicks to install.
Add the Capital One Shopping browser extension today and start earning discounts of up to 50% on the things you already buy. Your bank account will thank you