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CAA launches guide to help passengers navigate flight disruptions, compensation

The CAA guide covers some of the most common problems, such as flight delays, cancellations, lost bags and getting bumped from a flight.  (Rob Kruk/CBC - image credit)
The CAA guide covers some of the most common problems, such as flight delays, cancellations, lost bags and getting bumped from a flight. (Rob Kruk/CBC - image credit)

Has your flight been delayed or cancelled? Has the airline lost or damaged your luggage? Wondering what your rights are and what compensation you might be entitled to?

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) has launched a guide to help air travellers navigate some of the most common flight disruptions that could be worth hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

CAA's Air Passenger Help Guide pares down the 60 pages of federal air passenger protection regulations to "five clicks or less," said Julia Kent, director of social responsibility and advocacy for CAA Atlantic.

It "simplifies it [in] clear, concise language and it helps consumers find out what, if anything, they're owed if they do experience any of the most common flight disruptions," she said.

These include flight delays; flight cancellations; lost, damaged or delayed baggage; being denied boarding; tarmac delays and the seating of children under 14 with their guardians.

"It asks you a bunch of questions about your particular situation, and then it spells out ... what range you could expect to receive from the airline," said Kent, noting the guide is available to all Canadians — no CAA membership is required.

61% have experienced flight disruption or know someone

According to a CAA survey of more than 2,500 Canadians last fall, 61 per cent said they have experienced a flight disruption in the last two years, or know someone who has, while nearly 40 per cent said the existing air passenger rules are ineffective.

"That's largely because ... what is the airline's fault and what is not?"

Julia Kent is with CAA Atlantic and said electric car charging infrastructure in the Martime provinces is inadequate and needs to be rapidly improved. 'This is a big issue for people,' she said.
Julia Kent is with CAA Atlantic and said electric car charging infrastructure in the Martime provinces is inadequate and needs to be rapidly improved. 'This is a big issue for people,' she said.

Julia Kent, director of social responsibility and advocacy for CAA Atlantic, says passenger rights have existed in Canada since 2019, but they can be confusing and people might not want to wade through the 60 pages of rules to figure out what, if anything, they're owed, if they're stuck at an airport. (CBC)

More than 80 per cent called for more transparency about airline performance through the publishing of statistics by the federal government and airlines on topics such as how often flights are on time and baggage loss.

"So there definitely is a need for improvement in Canada, in the air passenger world for sure," said Kent, based on the October survey, which had a margin of error of +/- two per cent.

She noted changes to the federal regulations are expected later this year, which she hopes will clarify for passengers what is within or outside the carrier's control. But the CAA guide will help in the meantime, and will be updated, as necessary, she said.

Step-by-step

If people are entitled to compensation, the CAA guide also walks them through that, said Kent.

For example, if they contact the airline about an issue, the airline has 30 days to respond. If it doesn't, people can escalate the issue to the Canadian Transportation Agency, "which is what we recommend," she said.

"It tells you exactly what to do. It makes it very clear for consumers, and that's really what we want.

We want consumers to be treated fairly, but we also want them to understand their rights and know how to exercise their rights and get what they're owed. — Julia Kent, CAA Atlantic

"We want consumers to be treated fairly, but we also want them to understand their rights and know how to exercise their rights and get what they're owed in the event they do experience an issue."

People might be surprised to learn how much money they could be entitled to, said Kent.

With a delayed or cancelled flight, they could be owed up to $500, she said.

If their flight is stuck on the tarmac for hours, they could get up to $1,000.

And people who have been denied boarding because their flight is overbooked could see between $900 and $2,400.

"So we're talking about real money here," said Kent.

Among some of the issues not covered by the CAA guide are unaccompanied minors, accessible travel, and transportation of large and fragile items, such as musical instruments. People are encouraged to contact the Canadian Transportation Agency for help with those.