Canadian airlines create passenger bill of rights

photo by caribb
Canadian carriers Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, Air Transat, and WestJet have come up with new legally binding operating rules, or "airline tariffs," that give passengers more options if their flight is delayed or canceled. As part of the new set of rules, the four airlines must:
  • Distribute meal vouchers for delays of four hours or longer
  • Let passengers off the aircraft if the plane is delayed on the ground for more than 90 minutes
  • Pay for hotel rooms for passengers affected by overnight delays or cancelations
Not bad - if I was a delayed or stranded passenger, I'd say that those rules are a pretty good improvement. But the four airlines, which have formed a lobby group known as the National Airlines Council of Canada, aren't exactly doing this unprovoked, however. A Canadian MP proposed a bill that would fine airlines $1200 per traveler who was bumped off of a flight longer than 3500km (about 2175 miles). Airlines would also have to start giving $500 an hour to passengers stuck on a plane on the ground for more than 60 minutes after the doors close.

Naturally, the airlines are keen to avoid having to pay such exorbitant fines, and are thus rolling out their own "bill of rights" in advance. And it's doubtful whether the proposed bill would actually pass; as the lobby group's president stated: "The compensation requirements are grossly punitive and do not recognize the cost/revenue environment that air carriers face today. In the current economic downturn, airlines are already struggling to provide service to their customers." The fines outlined in the proposed bill do seem rather "grossly punitive"; but at the same time, passengers who are stuck for hours on a plane on the tarmac should be compensated fairly. The National Airlines Council of Canada is proof that even if it takes the threat of a harsh bill to do it, airlines still have the capability to ensure that their customers are compensated in a fair manner.