canada transportation act

Changes coming to Canadian air passengers' rights

According to the Ministry of Transportation, Canada is updating its laws to strengthen air passengers' rights.

The federal ministry announced on Monday that the amendments proposed for the Canada Transportation Act will finally be introduced at the "earliest opportunity."

"Protecting the rights of air passengers is a priority of the Government of Canada, and the government will continue to ensure that travellers' rights are respected by airlines when air travel does not go according to plan," officials wrote in a press release.

Canada got its first-ever Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) in 2019, which "clarified minimum requirements and compensation."

Canadian airports saw intense travel chaos during the pandemic, from cancellations to lost luggage and delays. Even the weather was sometimes relentless, leaving flyers in limbo for days, often with uncooperative airlines.

Passengers' rights were strengthened following all this to ensure travellers impacted got the compensation they deserved.

The new changes set to become law will help the Canadian Transport Agency make passengers' rights a bigger priority. The agency will:

  • make compensation mandatory for all disruptions unless the disruption was caused by very limited circumstances that would be specifically defined by regulations;
  • remove exemptions to air carriers' compensation obligations based on broad categories of disruptions (e.g., disruptions outside/within the control of airlines or required for safety);
  • make standards of treatment, such as the provision of food and water, mandatory for all flight disruptions;
  • establish requirements for delayed baggage and prescribe parameters around refund requirements as a result of a travel advisory issued by the government.

The amendments will also:

  • replace the current process for resolving air travel complaints, which includes an adjudication process by Governor in Council-appointed members, with a more simplified process conducted primarily by Agency staff to ensure travellers get quicker decisions;
  • impose a greater burden of proof on air carriers where it is presumed that compensation is payable to a complainant, unless the air carrier proves the contrary;
  • require air carriers to establish an internal process for dealing with air travel claims;
  • broaden the authority of the Agency to set fees and charges to recover its costs; and
  • enhance the Agency's enforcement powers with respect to the air transportation sector by allowing the Agency to increase the maximum amount of Administrative Monetary Penalties applicable to the APPR for corporations and by providing the Agency with the authority to enter into compliance agreements with air carriers.

Once the Budget Implementation Act receives royal assent — expected on September 30 or later — the Canadian Transportation Agency will start resolving traveller complaints under the new system.

The federal government is spending $75.9 million over three years to help reduce a massive backlog of passenger complaints.

These new changes have already received criticism from the New Democratic Party (NDP). The party says new measures fall short of the standard set by the European Union.

"The minister promised to give Canadians the strongest air passenger protections in the world, but this latest attempt isn't going to address the big issues," said NDP MP Taylor Bachrach on Monday. "So far, the Liberals seem to be doubling down on their expensive, complex, bureaucratic approach, which has failed Canadian travellers."

The NDP pointed out that the Standing Committee on Transport recommended the government remove a loophole allowing airlines to deny travellers compensation.

"By leaving the loophole intact, the minister has chosen to largely ignore the committee, consumer advocates and his own transportation agency in favour of Canada’s big airlines," said Bachrach. "Canadians have been frustrated by this process at every turn. The government should be standing with passengers, not with big airlines."

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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