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Airline Passenger Bill of Rights

Canadian Association of Airline Passengers (CAAP) Airline Passenger Bill of Rights

General Principle: Airline passengers flying in or out of Canadian airports or on flights operated by air carriers based in Canada are entitled to a safe flight, with a high quality of service at affordable, predictable prices on a year round basis.

Specific Principles:

1) Public Participation

The current operation of Canadian airports, air carriers and the air navigation system requires increased public oversight and fair, enforceable rules to protect passengers rights. There are numerous outstanding issues relating to safety, pricing, and service which must be resolved in the public’s interest. Proposed changes in the status quo of the airports or air carrier industry have the potential for adverse effect on passengers, communities, employees and the general public interest. In addition to the application of consumer rights as part of normal industry operation, any pending or future mergers or restructuring in Canadian airports, air carriers, air navigation system or aviation regulatory authority should be subjected to a publicly open, mandatory test of public and passenger interests. These matters should be heard by a competent and impartial party, such as the CTA, TSB or Civil Aviation Tribunal.

As part of a public process, the Minister of Transport should require any party proposing change, to state in their proposal how passenger interests will be accommodated in both a transition period, and the longer term.

The Minister of Transport should establish a public involvement process with respect to the development of safety policy and regulations that affect the safety of passengers. This process, whether integrated with or independent of the current Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Council (CARAC) should offer bona fide members for travel and accommodation expenses plus a reasonable per diem.

Regulation and policy through the CTA or Transport Canada should ensure compliance with such undertakings.

Any public process, including the CTA, must include intervenor funding to facilitate representation on behalf of the 18 million passengers in Canada.

Public interests representing passengers should also be given status on the Boards of the major national and regional airports, air carriers and the air navigation system in Canada.

2) Safety

Priority of Public Safety in Decision-Making.

The safety of passengers should always be the foremost consideration in all areas of air carrier, airport, air navigation system and aviation regulatory decision-making;

Air passengers are entitled to the safest trip possible given the current state of knowledge about technology, design, materials, air navigation, meteorology and other considerations;

Commercial considerations such as selling services that are not essential to traveling safety must never take precedence over passenger safety considerations either in the air or on the ground;

While quantitative analyses of risks, costs and benefits are legitimate factors for consideration by managers in the air passenger business, they must not displace the policy stated above.

Normal and Emergency Levels of Services.

Air carriers, airports, air navigation systems and the aviation regulators shall comply with all applicable regulations and avail themselves of the most up-to-date best practices in the world for normal and emergency operations. Federal authorities should conduct a comprehensive, annual evaluation of services related to public safety by federal authorities, and should provide such reports provided to Parliament.

A Culture of Safety.

The Chairman, CEO and President of all companies with safety responsibilities are expected to make public their commitments to operate with a culture based on openness, justice, flexibility and learning, and to be accountable for that culture.

Additional Safety Risks Arising From Mergers, Restructuring.

A special review and verification of safety procedures should be required for any merging or restructuring of air carriers. Such reviews should include assessment of and proposed mitigation measures for transition issues for the airline plus current identified but unresolved safety issues, such as defective aircraft wiring and airport emergency response capability.

Access to Public Safety Information.

Passengers and the public are entitled to complete and timely disclosure of all information on any aspect dealing with safety standards and compliance with safety regulations that could affect passenger safety. This includes the type of aircraft, the aircraft operators, owner operation and the country of registration.

Air carriers, airports and regulatory authorities should provide passengers with information on request and should publish monthly statistics and records, including on a well-identified Internet website, within 45 days of the end of each month the following information:

  • The level of activity (e.g. number of passengers and departures);
  • The level of safety (e.g. number of fatal and non-fatal accidents);
  • A list of incidents over the last five years and the resolution of each, including a contact number;
  • The results of the last two government safety inspections and audits and their resolution by the air carrier and/or airport;
  • The safety and compliance records of air carriers and airports over the last 5 years.

Accidents.

In the event of an accident taking place at an airport, passengers are entitled to rescue and fire-fighting services that are equal to or better than international standards and recommended practices, to shelter and first aid, to prompt first and secondary medical aid, to counseling, to consideration of their loss of earning, and standing at any subsequent investigation by the Transportation Safety Board, including reasonable expenses and compensation.

In the event that the traveler is killed in an air carrier or airport accident, the family of the deceased passenger should be compensated immediately and generously in order to carry on at an equivalent standard of living and to seek any additional compensation. Any immediate compensation must not serve as a barrier to any subsequent compensatory or punitive settlements.

The Minister of Transport should publicly account, including via the official Transport Canada website, for post accident recommendations of the Transportation Safety Board, including the status of any action taken or the reasons why safety action has not been taken.

3) Service quality

Full Passenger Information Disclosure.

Passengers are entitled to complete, timely and full disclosure of all information that is material to their flight, including information on: Routing, connections, fares, accommodation, facilities, and baggage rules;

The passenger is entitled to be informed of changes in respect of reservations contracted with the carrier, and is to be informed in advance of overbooking or commercial practices that could annul the reservation or materially affect the passengers’ plans. Where delay is inevitable, he/she is entitled to complete information as to the reasons and, reasonable accommodation (hotel overnight) until the carrier can accept the passenger on board. Where an air carrier fails to comply with these rules, monetary penalties should be assessed through regulation, in addition to being available to consumers through civil law.

Onboard Quality.

The passenger is entitled to comfortable seating and adequate space on board the flight with which to make an emergency evacuation, including protection against the excessive carry-on baggage of other passengers.

Information on seat pitch and width should be provided to passengers on request and every effort will be made to find seating adequate to the passengers height, girth, etc.

The passenger is entitled to the satisfaction, in hygienic and humane conditions, of basic human needs; including breathing fresh air, availability of fresh drinking water, elimination in clean, accessible and sufficiently numerous toilet facilities.

General Service Standards.

The passenger is entitled to courteous service with full explanations of safety regulations and answers to questions in his or her Official Language.

Timely information on delays or safety problems should be given in full, with understandable vocabulary.

The passenger is entitled to careful handling of baggage and on time delivery of same at the proper destination in good condition with all property intact.

Where problems delay or misdirect baggage the passenger is entitled to full explanation, diligent search, fast forwarding (within 24 hours), and full reimbursement of damage or loss.

The passenger is entitled to protection by airport and air carrier personnel against harassment, excessive noise, and obstreperous behaviour and, specifically, against the results of excessive drinking by other passengers of drugs and of alcoholic beverages, and in particular those latter furnished on board by the airport or air carrier’s employees.

Discrimination against disabled passengers should be prohibited. Disabled persons should be afforded the same rights as other passengers. Disabled passengers should be seated to accommodate the safe evacuation of the aircraft by them and other passengers in emergency situations. Airports and air carriers should furnish reasonable accommodation for disabled persons including an extra seat where necessitated by a person’s condition for accommodation of the person, his or her prostheses, or a person accompanying him or her.

Passengers should be able to easily contact sales and reservations staff on a 24 hour per day basis. There should be a maximum waiting time of 10 minutes on an airlines’ 1-800 number. Staff should be available at airports in situations where flights are being delayed and/or cancelled.

The airlines’ complaint service should include a designated staff person at each airport to handle customer complaints. The designated person’s name, phone number, and e-mail address should be made available at ticket counters and gates. Complaint forms that can be mailed in should also be available. The airline should be required to answer every complaint within 30 days. An Ombudsperson should be appointed to mediate customer disputes with an airline. The Ombudsperson should be independent, appointed by the government and, should issue quarterly reports.

The airport and air carrier should provide a complaint service, and should publish monthly, including on the Internet, within 45 days of the end of each month the number of complaints received by letter and e-mail messages on the following topics;

  • Flight problems (total) and on subcategories: missed connection; diversion; cancellation; delay leaving gate; delay after leaving gate but before takeoff; delay after landing but before deplaning; arrival delay;
  • Over sales;
  • Reservations, ticketing, boarding;
  • Fares;
  • Refunds;
  • Baggage;
  • Customer service;
  • Disability discrimination;
  • Other discrimination (including by race, colour, national origin, official language;
  • Advertising;
  • Pricing including fares;
  • Credit;
  • Tours;
  • Frequent flyer program;
  • Smoking;
  • Safety -related observations.

Regulations should be introduced with set fines, payable to passengers, for breech of any service standards.

4) Pricing

  • The passenger is entitled to pricing of basic and discounted fares in accordance with a competitive market for the travel being purchased.
  • In the event that a competitive market does not exist for the travel being purchased, the passenger is entitled to a fare set in accordance with a regulatory scheme that sets just and reasonable fares and conditions which apply to basic and discounted fares. (ie. seat sales, advance and weekend stayover booking)
  • In the absence of exceptional circumstances, changes in basic fares should not be made without reasonable notice.
  • Where travel fares are set by market forces, the federal government has the obligation to ensure that anti-competitive conduct such as abuse of dominant position, collusion and price fixing does not affect the price of travel.
  • Key barriers to market entry must be swiftly removed and predatory pricing prevented.
  • Where fares are set the setting of fares in accordance with regulation, it should be done in an open, accessible, transparent, public process by the regulator.
  • Where the required levels of service to rural, remote or small communities cannot be maintained in a competitive or regulated market without:

(i) fare increases greater than the country wide average

(ii) restrictions on availability of discount fares that differ from service elsewhere in Canada

The Canadian Transportation Agency shall initiate a public process to prevent the occurrence of the same, and may establish a contribution regime as part of licensing requirements to assist, where warranted, in the provision of fair, reasonable and affordable service for all air travel consumers across Canada.

5) Regulation

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) should mandate through new regulations the passenger rights, oversight procedures and redress mechanisms listed above. Public participation should be required as part of the CTA’s monitoring, review and regulatory activities.

Amended November, 1999

 

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