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Dear Minister Collenette:
Re: Air Canada and Passenger Transit Problems, Events of September 11, 2001
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Air Passengers (CAAP). PIAC has been involved in the policy discussions that have taken place since the onset of the restructured Canadian airline industry in 1999.
It has come to our attention that passengers of many airlines, including Air Canada, were shabbily treated during the traumatic events of last week. Stranded in Canadian airports, they were forced to seek accommodation, and travel to that accommodation, at their own expense. Air Canada had surreptitiously changed their “irregular operations ” policy in August, claiming that the abandonment of passengers is the current practice in the airline industry. While the tragic events of last week were unexpected, disruptive, and costly, the narrow perspective of Air Canada and other (but, not all) airlines was appalling. How might a passenger, subjected to the cavalier airline attitude of last week, react to this week’s airline encouragement to travel?
With respect, this episode illustrates the folly of leaving it up to airlines to determine reasonable passenger expectations when a ticket is purchased. We would urge the government to move swiftly to implement a passenger “Bill of Rights” that would be incorporated into the conditions of carriage for every carrier licensed to operate in Canada. CAAP’s previous submissions to your office and your department have detailed the minimum content for such initiative.
We would note that it is Air Canada’s intention to apply for a four billion-dollar bailout of its operations. While we do not support such a measure, we would believe that, at a minimum, Air Canada would take steps to compensate passengers for their loss arising from the same unfortunate events that have occasioned the airline bailout request. As well, Canadians will demand far better treatment and mandatory enforceable customer standards if public monies are so invested.
Executive Director/ General Counsel
cc: Mr. Bruce Hood, Air Transport Commissioner of Complaints