PIAC Letter to The Honourable Jean Lapierre, Minister of Transport, Re: Consumer Protection B Airline Passengers

The Honourable Jean Lapierre (613) 995-0327
Minister of Transport
Place de Ville, Tower C
330 Sparks Street
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0N5
Dear Mr. Lapierre:
Re: Consumer Protection B Airline Passengers
The Canadian Association of Airline Passengers (CAAP) is a coalition of Canadian public interest and consumer organizations who are active in transportation issues associated with airline travel in Canada. The coalition was formed in 1999 to assist in providing the public interest perspective in the resolution of issues associated with the merger of Air Canada and Canadian Airlines. The membership of the organization includes the following organizations:
Air Passenger Safety Group
Canadian Federation of Students
Consumers Association of Canada Saskatchewan
Manitoba Society of Seniors
Ontario Society of Senior Citizens= Organizations
Option Consommateurs
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Rural Dignity of Canada
Transport 2000
We believe that the there are serious deficiencies in the current regulation of the airline industry in Canada, some of which have been brought to light by the Jetsgo failure and the subsequent impact upon passengers of that airline. We believe that there is a continuing need for the kinds of consumer protection standards associated with the Canadian Airline Passenger Bill of Rights within the carrier license framework, a position that we have previously urged upon your ministry. We are writing today on behalf of CAAP to recommend some immediate and pressing problems
be addressed.

  1. Licensed carriers must conform to advertising standards currently in place in Ontario and Quebec that promote transparency by ensuring full disclosure of all fees, surcharges etc. so that a final all-in ticket price is apparent. The questionable promotion tactics of advertising one price and assessing a far different one to the enticed consumer is a practice that is incompatible with reasonable airline operation and must be stopped.
  2. Licensed carriers must be part of a self-insurance scheme similar to those in operation for travel suppliers in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. This may require the adoption and maintenance of more rigorous financial fitness rules for carriers. However, it is unreasonable to visit upon other industry stakeholders, such as travel agents in the aforementioned provinces, or jilted passengers, the financial effects of carrier failure where such stakeholders may not be in a position to know the financial circumstances of the carrier prior to a transaction.
  3. The office of the Airline Complaints Commissioner must be immediately reinstated. There is no evidence that the need for the Commissioner’s office has diminished: indeed, if anything there is evidence that there is likely a need to strengthen the Commissioner’s powers beyond publicity and persuasion. We are not aware of any effort on the part of Transport Canada or the Canadian Transportation Agency to consult with consumer and public interest stakeholders prior to the cancellation announcement. The suggestion that market forces can now deal with the problems formerly handled by the Commissioner lacks a basis in reality.

We are increasingly concerned that the actions of your department are exclusively supplier driven. Experience in this, and other jurisdictions, has demonstrated that important public services such as airlines require a clear set of consumer protection rules that will ensure that reasonable customer expectations are met. This is particularly the case in Canada where geography and population size constrain the ability of competition on the basis of quality of service to be effective.
We are writing to request a meeting at your earliest convenience to discuss the above. We understand that you have had the benefit of representations from industry stakeholders in relation to the making of airline policy. We wish to ensure that similar access is afforded to the representatives of the Canadian traveling public.
Thank you.
Yours truly,
Original signed
Michael Janigan
Executive Director/General Counsel