On July 15, 2019, phase one of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPRs) came into force, providing air passengers in Canada with rights and benefits under Canada's first "air passenger bill of rights." The goal of the APPRs is to provide for clearer and more consistent air passenger rights by imposing certain minimum requirements on airlines operating in Canada.

The APPRs apply to all airlines operating flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights. Different requirements for compensation and rebooking apply to large airlines (airlines having transported over two-million passengers in each of the two preceding years) versus small airlines (all other airlines).

Phase One

As of July 15, 2019, applicable airlines are required to meet new obligations regarding communication, denied boarding, tarmac delays, baggage liability and the transportation of musical instruments:

  • Communication: Airlines are required to clearly communicate with passengers information on their rights and remedies for flight disruptions and lost or damaged baggage. In the event of a flight disruption, airlines must communicate to passengers the reason for the disruption and provide regular updates. Airlines must also ensure that communications are accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • Denied Boarding: The APPRs set out the procedures airlines must follow when a flight is overbooked and passengers must be denied boarding. This includes a guideline on selecting which passenger will be denied boarding and the standard of treatment, compensation and rebooking or refund rights such passenger is entitled to.
  • Tarmac Delays: The APPRs require that during tarmac delays, whether they occur in Canada or elsewhere, passengers are given, at a minimum, access to lavatories, proper ventilation and heating and cooling, food and drink, and the ability to communicate with people outside of the plane free of charge (e.g., free Wi-Fi), if feasible.
  • Baggage Liability and Musical Instruments: Before the implementation of the APPRs, airlines operating in Canada were only liable for lost or damaged baggage during international travel, up to approximately C$2,100. Under the APPRs, airlines will be held liable for up to the same amount for baggage that is lost or damaged during domestic flights. The APPRs also require that airlines provide clear guidelines regarding the transportation of musical instruments.

Phase Two

Passenger rights with respect to compensation and standard of treatment for flight delays and cancellations will not become effective until December 15, 2019. This provides airlines with a grace period before passengers will be entitled to compensation and rebooking or refund benefits for delays or cancellations within the airlines control.

For example, passengers on a flight delayed or cancelled by a large airline for reasons that were within the airline's control and not related to security and resulted in passengers arriving to their final destination nine or more hours after their initial time of arrival, are entitled to $1,000. Passenger rights with respect to seating of children will also come effect on December 15, 2019.

Airlines that fail to comply with the APPRs could be subject to administrative monetary penalties of up to $25,000 per incident. In the event of a dispute with an airline, passengers are entitled to file complaints with the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Notwithstanding that the APPRs have not fully come into force yet, various Canadian airlines, along with IATA, have mounted a legal challenge to them. The Federal Court of Appeal has agreed to hear such dispute.

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© 2019 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

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