The Canadian government expects to introduce legislation this spring that will set standards on how airline passengers should be treated and compensated in the event of an overbooking situation or lost baggage.
The announcement follows a series of events surrounding United Airlines’ removing a passenger from a Chicago O-Hare-Louisville, KY, flight. In response, Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, sent a letter to the heads of every airline flying to and from the country, warning them such treatment would not be accepted in Canada.
“When passengers purchase an airline ticket, they expect and deserve that the airline will fulfill its part of the transaction,” Garneau wrote. “When that agreement is not fulfilled, passengers are entitled to clear, transparent and enforceable compensation.”
In the United States, the Department of Transportation can issue severe fines for passenger rights violations, but no such rules exist in Canada.
In media reports, a WestJet Airlines spokeswoman stated that carrier “does not deliberately overbook our flights.” A spokesman at Air Canada, which operates a code-share with United, told one reporter, “it is important to note we are very conservative in our approach so it is rare that a flight is overbooked,” and that the carrier makes decisions “before final seats are assigned and customers board the aircraft.”
The Canadian government had acknowledged the need for legislation last fall, and it appears the United incident has raised more urgency around introducing it now. Further specifics around the legislation have not been disclosed yet.
The Canadian Transportation Agency said it received 55 denied boarding complaints in 2015-16 (down from a high of 82 in 2013-14), less than 4% of all air travel complaints. Complaints can be filed with the Transport Ministry on its website, but the agency will only assist passengers in working with the airlines to resolve a disputer.