Passenger rights, airline ownership addressed in new legislation

Passenger rights, airline ownership addressed in new legislation

Canada’s airlines have weighed in on new legislation proposed by the Government of Canada this week, which among other measure will establish new air passenger rights and ease international ownership restrictions for Canadian carriers.

Among the key measures found in the proposed Transportation Modernization Act, announced yesterday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, is a passenger bill of rights which will prevent air passengers from being bumped involuntarily from their flights, while establishing minimum compensation guidelines for passengers who voluntarily give up their seats in the event of an overbooking.

This bill of rights was first considered following the violent removal of a passenger on an overbooked United Airlines flight in Chicago earlier this spring.

The legislation also aims to liberalize international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers (from the current 25 per cent to 49 per cent), in an effort to provide travellers with more choice through increased competition.

In a press release, Air Canada stated that it “welcomes the Government's desire to establish air passenger rights that are clear, consistent, transparent and fair for passengers and air carriers industry-wide. We believe it is in the interest of all parties to create a more predictable and fair system that applies to all airlines operating in Canada, which is not currently the case. Air Canada looks forward to participating in the consultation process relating to the new regulations over the coming months…. the increase of foreign ownership limits to 49 per cent (from 25 per cent) should provide improved access to international investors and global capital markets for Air Canada.

Transat A.T. President and CEO Jean-Marc Eustache stated "we all share the common objectives of improving the travel experience for our customers while keeping system and industry costs under control. As long as this remains the fundamental driving force for this regulatory initiative, I am confident that the final result will be positive for all.”

Mike McNaney, WestJet Vice-President, Industry, Corporate and Airport Affairs said, "we welcome the legislation and are committed to working with the CTA, the Minister, parliamentarians and government agencies in the months to come. We also encourage the government to address all aspects of the travel experience, particularly those beyond the control of airlines such as lengthy wait times for passenger screening and customs. We believe that any effort to improve the guest's travel experience must take into account all aspects of that experience, in particular those services provided by the federal government."