Airline Passenger Compensation In Canada: Here Are The New Rules

The Canadian government has announced new rules for airline passenger compensation. These new “Air Passenger Protection Regulations” had been in the works for months and will take effect in two phases: in July and in December.

Here are the details of the 5 new rules announced.

 

Background

As we’ve mentioned before, more protection and compensation is good news for travelers, but there is a balance that needs to be struck: if it is too expensive for airlines, they will obviously pass along those costs to all customers. So every single air traveler will be punished with higher airfares to compensate the very few who experience an issue.

The government acknowledged this early in the process, saying they accepted that this would raise airfares but would try to minimize that raise to just a few dollars per ticket. Like everyone else, they are well aware that every single year a new ranking of the countries with the most expensive airfares in the world places Canada among the worst (if not the worst) developed countries.

That said, in Europe, regulations exist and are quite steep: a delayed flight gives you up to € 600 (~ C$ 900) in compensation, on any flight operated by an EU carrier or any flight departing the EU. This is in addition to the C$ 500 you can get for free during any delay to cover meals and hotels by paying for your flight with one of the good travel credit cards in Canada (more on that below for those who don’t know about it).

And yet despite this regulation in Europe, you can fly pretty much from anywhere to anywhere for under $100 one-way if you’re at least a little flexible, so it’s not like it’s impossible to have compensation and low fares. But with the takeover of Air Transat by Air Canada further limiting the level of competition and potentially raising our already high airfares, it seems like it will be more and more important to follow Flytrippers’ cheap flight deals page to be able to fly for less!

The new set of rules that will be implemented focus heavily on IROPS (or irregular operations for non-aviation geeks) and disruptions in a broader sense, but there is more. By the way, all these measures will apply to all flights to and from Canada.

Flight delay compensation was to be the highlight of these rules, given how generous it is in Europe… but as you’ll see, there’s a major caveat with that element though.

 

Rules taking effect July 15

There are 3 main rules that will be in place in time for (most of) the peak summer travel season.

 

Overbooking

Overbooking is when airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. First of all, sorry to start off with this hard-to-swallow pill, but overbooking is good for consumers. It keeps fares lower for everyone on all flights and only a microscopic infinitely small portion of passengers are ever affected.

Just check-in online 24 hours before your flight (which you should always do anyway) and don’t volunteer if your flight is overbooked, and you’ll be fine. It’s a very rare occurrence to start with. Airlines operate that exact same 6:20 pm flight #835 every single day of the year and have pretty accurate data on how many people usually don’t show up, but sometimes it won’t work out.

You could already get a pretty good payday out of it if you want to, but now it will be even better.

The minimum required compensation will depend on the length of the delay:

Delay LengthCompensation
6 hours or less$900
6 to 9 hours$1,800
9 hours or more$2,400

 

I’ve only been lucky enough to get the chance to volunteer (and get free money) once in my 250+ flights and it was only $500, so a $900 starting point is actually quite generous.

Two other pro tips:

  • never plan anything important the day after a flight (we’re in Canada, the weather is often a mess and also it will allow you to say yes to hundreds of dollars if there’s overbooking)
  • remember that the journey is the destination (and take this compensation or your credit card insurance to have fun if there’s a disruption, no matter which city you happen to be in).

 

Tarmac delays

You might remember that this whole regulatory process started after Air Transat left a plane full of passengers on the tarmac at Ottawa Airport with no AC, water or food for 5 hours. It was so bad onboard that a passenger had to call 911 from his cellphone on the plane.

So during a tarmac delay, airlines will now be required to:

  • ensure all the toilets are working
  • ensure the aircraft is properly ventilated
  • provide food and drinks

The maximum time passengers can be kept in the plane during a tarmac delay will be 3 hours, with one exception: if a departure is “likely” in the first 45 minutes after the 3-hour timeframe.

Airlines will also have to give passengers the ability to communicate with people outside the plane free of charge “if possible” (we’ll try and get more details on what that means exactly).

 

Lost or damaged baggage

If you choose to travel with a bag and it is lost, airlines will now owe you $2,100 (and a refund of the baggage fees).

Again, if you have any good Canadian travel credit card, you already have free coverage to replace the items in your lost baggage, so that compensation would be a good example of double-dipping.

A great trick to avoid lost or damaged baggage is to travel “carry-on only”. You also avoid lineups and long waits… and save a ton on baggage fees so you can travel more often (which is something everyone says they want to do).

We’ll soon have more tips to help you learn how to join team carry-on only like most experienced travelers have if you are interested, so signup to our free newsletter to get plenty of useful travel tips… and the 50%-off flight deals we curate from your city.

 

Rules taking effect December 15

The biggest piece of this new regulation won’t be in place until December.

 

Flight delays

Again, it’s worth repeating because it’s so easy to get $500 for free for expenses during a delay: not paying for a flight with a travel credit card makes absolutely no sense.

Unless you didn’t know about it, which is unfortunately quite common. But now we’ve taken care of that! You’re welcome, we genuinely love sharing tips that give you great value (you can read more details about free flight delay insurance).

So in addition to that protection (that only covers expenses), you will now be entitled to cash compensation like in the EU. The amount will depend on whether you are flying on a large airline or a small airline (over 2 million passengers carried in the past 2 years or not).

There is a major caveat though. Not all flight delays are covered. Obviously, if the delay is weather-related, you don’t get a dime. Which makes sense: airlines can’t control the weather, why would they have to pay for your hotel?

Natural disasters, political instability, and security threats are also considered outside the airline’s control, so no compensation applies there either. For those, the only requirement is that the airline gets you to your destination, which they all do already anyway.

Thankfully, at least credit card flight delay insurance covers all types of delays.

Up until now, this all makes sense.

But more surprisingly, delays within the airline’s control “due to safety reasons” (like mechanical issues and safety-related decisions made by the pilots) will not be covered, which kind of defeats the purpose…

Not having to pay for something out of their control is entirely logical, but a delay that is within their control not being eligible for compensation isn’t logical at all. I bet we’ll see a lot more “mechanical issues” whenever a flight is delayed, it’ll be much cheaper for airlines.

— All airlines after any type of delay in Canada post-Dec. 15th

 

So the flight delay compensation is a bit toothless because the vast majority of delays are caused by reasons that won’t be covered. In Europe, mechanical issues are covered by the compensation regulations.

If by chance your delay is not classified as safety-related by your airline, here are the compensation levels:

Delay LengthCompensation
(Large Airline)
Compensation
(Small Airline)
3 to 6 hours$400$125
6 to 9 hours$700$250
9 hours or more$1,000$500

 

Interestingly, there is more: if the airline cannot rebook you on their own planes, after 9 hours they will be obligated to pay for you to fly on another airline.

Airlines will have to ensure you get to your final destination in the same class of service you booked.

Finally, if you no longer want to take your trip because of the delay, you will be entitled to a full refund and the financial compensation.

 

Seat selection

Another thing that most people hate is seat selection fees. But it is, in fact, great for those who want to travel for less, as you no longer have to pay to choose a seat if you’d rather save money and don’t care where you’re seated. You shouldn’t have to pay for something you don’t want.

You can also read our tip in our popular article about why you should never pay to select seats. It will now be truer than ever because the best reason to pay was with kids.

Well, the new regulation will now force airlines to seat kids with or near their parents for free.

With or near?  Yes, here are the details:

Child's AgeRegulation
Under 5 years oldMust be seated next to parent
5 to 11 years oldMust be seated in same row and no more than one seat away
12 to 13 years oldMust be seated no more than one row away

 

Summary

The new Canadian Air Passenger Protection Rules are now official and will ensure significant compensation for passengers who face disruptions during their journey… at the cost of slightly more expensive airfares. As most flight delays won’t even be covered, be sure to pay for any flight with a good Canadian travel credit card to at least get free insurance for all delays.

 

What do you think of these new rules? Did the government strike a reasonable balance? Tell us in the comments below.

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You’ll probably enjoy this article:
8 Tips to Survive a Long Flight in Economy Class

 

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Cover image: AC planes at YYZ (photo credit: Robert Linsdell)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He aims to share his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to Travel Hacking... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 52/193 Countries, 46/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Do you have information on baggage delay compensation?
    And if you file a claim fir delayed luggage and then your luggage arrives later, what happens with your claim?

    1. Hello, the compensation is most likely to pay for the things you were forced to buy while not having your bag, so I doubt they would rescind the compensation amount later on, we’ll check once the details are announced.

  2. This looks great on paper, but I’m sure the airlines will try to finagle their way out of some of these. Wish this had been in place six years ago when Air Transat “misplaced” one of our bags during a flight to Rome. When we finally got it back, it was badly damaged and half our stuff was missing, replaced by things belonging to someone else. We had stupidly purchased their insurance and fought with them for months to recoup our replacement expenses. In the end, we got nothing!

    Can’t wrap my head around travelling with carry-on luggage only; at least not for a trip to Europe! There’s a skill I need to learn more about. 🙂

    Thanks for this informative article!

    1. Wow, you’d think buying their insurance should at least give you better service.

      Ans yes carry-on only is not for everyone, but the hardest part is the first trip that way. After a second then most travelers never go back:)

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