Backlog of air passenger complaints tops 57,000, hitting new peak

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Tougher caller rules are owed to instrumentality effect Sept. 30 but 1 advocator says the proscription bureau could beryllium doing much present to rise the fines for hose violations.

Canadian Transportation Agency getting 3,000 complaints a month

Christopher Reynolds · The Canadian Press

· Posted: Sep 18, 2023 4:40 PM EDT | Last Updated: 10 minutes ago

A stylized photograph  of an airdrome  arrivals/departures board.

Cancelled flights are announced connected an arrivals/departures committee astatine Toronto Pearson International Airport connected July 3, 2023. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

The backlog of aerial rider complaints astatine Canada's transport regulator has deed a caller high, topping 57,000, arsenic dissatisfaction implicit cancellations and compensation persist 3 and a fractional years aft the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers uncover that an mean of much than 3,000 complaints per period person piled up astatine the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) implicit the past year, with the existent tally good implicit 3 times the full from September 2022.

Vancouver residents Chad Kerychuk and Melissa Oei accidental they are mulling a ailment aft they arrived successful Halifax six hours aboriginal than planned connected a formation from their hometown successful August 2021 and recovered themselves separated connected committee contempt buying pricier tickets to prime side-by-side spots successful advance.

The mates said WestJet has rejected their petition for a partial refund.

"More than a twelvemonth has lapsed since the departure day and the assertion play has expired. As such, your assertion cannot beryllium approved," WestJet told them successful an email.

Kerychuk said the effect "feels similar a incorrect mode to dainty loyal customers," aft years of opting for that bearer implicit competitors.

"There was nary effort made to enactment us, due to the fact that we supported them during the pandemic. And I thought that was wholly unfair," helium said successful a telephone interview.

WestJet notified customers the disruption was caused by "unplanned maintenance," an exclusion from compensation rules that the national authorities says volition soon beryllium unavailable to carriers.

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In June, the authorities passed legislation to overhaul Canada's rider rights charter, laying retired measures to toughen penalties and tighten loopholes astir traveller compensation arsenic good arsenic streamline the complaints process.

"There volition beryllium nary much loopholes wherever airlines tin assertion a disruption is caused by thing extracurricular of their power for a information crushed erstwhile it's not," Omar Alghabra, the transport curate astatine the time, told reporters successful April.

The Canadian Press has reached retired to the proscription bureau and WestJet for comment.

While astir reforms aren't slated to instrumentality effect until Sept. 30, Air Passenger Rights advocacy radical president Gábor Lukács claims the bureau could instrumentality steps instantly to rise the maximum good for hose violations and footwear disconnected consultations connected who bears the administrative outgo of complaints.

Their rising tally comes arsenic nary astonishment to him.

"Those soaring numbers amusement the nonaccomplishment of the authorities to plan regulations which are really practically enforceable and supply meaningful extortion to passengers," Lukacs said.

He pointed to the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, besides known arsenic the rider rights charter, that the government introduced successful 2019 — a ineligible milestone for Canadian travellers, but 1 that failed to unrecorded up to its committedness owed to loopholes and deficiency of simplicity, Lukacs said.

"The authorities adopted a authorities which is truthful complicated, truthful analyzable ... that it takes inordinate resources to really verify eligibility (for compensation)," helium said.

He besides called retired a "dismal record" of enforcement.

"The fewer fines which are being issued are for low-hanging effect ... and the CTA has not really laid the groundwork to contented higher fines."

A frustrated rider  successful  a reddish  parka rests their caput  successful  their hands and leans connected  a baggage cart astatine  Vancouver International Airport.

A rider is pictured navigating wide delays astatine Vancouver International Airport aft a dense snowfall connected Dec. 20, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The amendments to the rider rights charter let the regulator to ratchet up the maximum punishment for hose violations to $250,000 — a tenfold summation — and enactment the regulatory outgo of complaints connected carriers. In theory, that measurement gives airlines an inducement to brushwood up their work and frankincense trim the fig of grievances against them.

Since April 1, 2022, WestJet has received 9 fines from the CTA amounting to $280,580 for assorted breaches, according to information connected the quasi-judicial body's website.

Of that amount, astir $124,000 stems from failing to "provide the prescribed compensation requested by rider oregon an mentation arsenic to wherefore compensation is not payable, wrong 30 days aft the time connected which it received the request," the contravention notices state.

The bureau has slapped Air Canada with six penalties — lone 1 pertaining straight to compensation — totalling $82,650 since April 1, 2022. Its gross successful the 15 months aft that day totalled $24.3 billion.

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