Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s introduction of legislation to create a new bill of rights for travellers Tuesday morning marked the first step in the path to airline consumer protection.
The bill will aim to lay out complete guidelines for when passengers are entitled to compensation, partly motivated by the controversial removal of a man from a United Airlines flight.
However, some believe the bill has been a long time coming, as Canada has lacked any proper consumer rights guidelines for years.
President and Director of the Consumers’ Association of Canada Bruce Cran is one of those people, and he spoke to Simi Sara about how he feels about this long-awaited legislation.
To start, Cran says the jury is still out on the legislation until it’s fully introduced.
However, he does say what he’s seen brings Canada closer to the kind of system found in Europe and the United States, which is promising.
Both places have clearly defined rules regarding the rights of air travellers, which have been in place for upwards of a decade.
In fact, the idea that a Canadian bill of rights would result in drastic changes is downright laughable to Cran.
“Our airlines must abide, when they fly to Europe, to those rules,” Cran says. “That’s all been done without any great upheaval.”
Taking it a step further, he says he’s disappointed that Canada’s airlines didn’t get out ahead of the controversy stateside by introducing their own guidelines.
And with an extremely profitable airline industry, Cran says it should be easy to implement a positive system.
“It really doesn’t take much, in my opinion, to do this properly and avoid all these problems.”
Speaking about the specifics of the legislation, Cran says the lack of a ban on flight overbooking is a huge oversight.
“We had hoped that overbooking would be eliminated entirely. We’re very sad to see that it’s not.”
Cran says the fact that seat bumping due to overbooking remains the most common issue the association has heard is proof enough it should be addressed.
“There are hundreds of complaints of different kinds of bumping, and I’m hoping we’ll have a better understanding of what we should be expecting.”
He goes as far as to say the practice flies in the face of consumers across the country.
“The whole thing is ridiculous when you think about it,” Cran says. “These people are allowed to sell you something they can’t provide, charge you cash for it when you order it, and then maybe not even deliver it at a later stage when you go to board the plane. It just doesn’t make sense at all.”
And it doesn’t stop at seat bumping – Cran says more minor issues, like tarmac delays, need to be covered by the legislation.
While business and first class travellers are more likely to be compensated for small issues, he says economy class travellers will still get the short end of the stick.
And for those kinds of travellers, who mostly take holidays, Cran says small issues can add up.
“If that first flight of yours doesn’t take off, or you’re not on it, it’s like a pack of cards falling. The rest of your holiday goes out the window.”
However, Cran does believe the introduction of legislation will start making a difference for Canadian travellers.
“It sounds like it’s a step in the right direction. Of course, it’s 30 years too late but better late than never.”