According to the Minister of Transport, the flight cancellations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic on the Canadian aviation industry revealed a "gap" in Canada's Air Passenger Protection Regulations (the APPRs): carriers were not required to compensate passengers for cancellations or lengthy delays due to situations outside of the carrier's control, even when those external factors made it impossible for the carrier to ensure that the passenger completed their reservation within a reasonable time.

Though many passengers impacted by pandemic cancellations received refunds as a condition of such airlines accessing pandemic relief funding through the Federal Government's Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility, new amendments to the APPRs came into force on September 8, 2022, with a view to permanently close this gap.

Under the new regulations, where there is a lengthy delay or cancellation for reasons outside of the carrier's control, the carrier will be required to provide passengers with a confirmed reservation on the next available flight offered by the carrier or one of its partners. If the carrier is unable to rebook the passenger on a flight that leaves within 48 hours of the scheduled departure time of the original itinerary, passengers may choose from the following two potential remedies:

(1) A refund for the unused portion of the passenger's tickets (including any unused add-on services), to be provided within 30 days using the passenger's original payment method; or

(2) A rebooking of the travel (with comparable levels of service to the original booking) on the next available flight – including, for large carriers, flights offered by competitors – and refunds for unused add-on services and reductions in level of service.

Limited exceptions permit the carriers to offer alternative refund methods (e.g., vouchers) that do not expire with the written informed consent of passengers. For passengers selecting the refund option who are no longer at their point of origin, a flight back to the point of origin must also be provided, free of charge, in addition to the refund.

Like the rest of the APPRs, there are administrative monetary penalties for non-compliance.

To achieve its goal of "robust yet balanced" passenger protections, Transport Canada held repeated consultations with industry representatives, consumer advocates and other stakeholder groups. It also sought to use the amendments to bring the APPRs more in line with equivalent legislation in the United States and European Union, while being tailored to the unique realities of Canadian aviation. Whether the amendments live up to their promise of "balance" remains to be seen.

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