Canadian Transportation Agency Decisions on International Tariff Amendments
for Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat

OTTAWA, Nov. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - In three separate decisions, the Canadian Transportation Agency accepted the clarifications to the amendments submitted by Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat to incorporate Flight Rights Canada provisions into their tariffs for international travel.

Announced by the Government of Canada in 2008, Flight Rights Canada describes how Canadian air carriers should treat passengers should a flight be delayed, overbooked or cancelled, as well as other related passenger rights.

In June 2009, the Agency had asked the carriers to revise the wording of certain provisions in the originally proposed amendments to their tariffs to ensure clarity, which, in turn, will make it easier for passengers to understand their rights and carrier obligations. For example, the Agency felt it was not clear:

    
    -   who has the right, the passenger or the air carrier, to determine the
        option for compensation in the case of overbooked or cancelled
        flights;
    -   which rules (the existing ones or the Flight Rights Canada ones) take
        precedence; and
    -   when the carriers are exempt from the obligations described in these
        provisions (for instance in cases of weather, or disruptions caused
        by a third party).
    

In these decisions, the Agency ruled that it is satisfied that the issues raised have been addressed. The three carriers have indicated that they will soon resubmit their revised international tariff to the Agency with the new clearer wording. The Agency will accept these tariffs within 24 hours of receiving them. Changes to each carrier's domestic tariff will go into effect when the carrier amends it.

While these decisions are only applicable to international travel, Air Canada and WestJet have also indicated their intention to make the same revisions to their tariffs for domestic travel. Air Transat does not operate domestic services.

The tariff is the contract between the carrier and the passenger and provisions incorporated into a carrier's tariffs are enforceable by the Agency. This means that passengers can file complaints with the Agency if they feel an air carrier has not acted in a manner consistent with the tariff, or if they feel the tariff is unclear, unjust, unreasonable or unduly discriminatory.

The Agency can order the air carrier to change its tariff and its terms and conditions. In some cases, the Agency can order the carrier to compensate passengers for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the incident or provide compensation for lost luggage.

About the Canadian Transportation Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal, which administers and enforces transportation related legislation in Canada to achieve a competitive, efficient and accessible transportation system.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has a number of mechanisms in place and is helping to protect consumers by:

    
    -   resolving disputes between members of the public and air carriers
        through facilitation, mediation or formal adjudication;
    -   working with air carriers and members of the public to ensure that
        they are aware of their rights and obligations;
    -   ensuring air carrier tariffs are compliant with Canadian legislation
        and regulations; and
    -   working with the industry to remove obstacles to transportation to
        the mobility of persons with disabilities by resolving individual
        complaints and by developing codes of practice, standards and
        regulations for accessible transportation.



    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                     The Canadian Transportation Agency

                    Dispute Resolution for Air Travellers
                                 At a Glance
    

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent administrative tribunal of the Government of Canada. It is responsible for:

    
    -   dispute resolution: to resolve complaints about transportation
        services, fares, rates, and charges;
    -   accessibility: to ensure that the national transportation system is
        accessible, particularly to persons with disabilities; and
    -   economic regulation: to provide approvals, licences and to make
        decisions on matters involving federally-regulated air, rail and
        marine transportation.
    

Through its actions, and by working closely with Transport Canada, other departments, its clients and stakeholder groups, the Agency supports the goal of a Canadian transportation system that is competitive, efficient and accessible and meets the needs of those who provide or use transportation services.

Complaints and Dispute Resolution

    
    -   Every year, the Agency helps hundreds of individuals resolve their
        disputes with rail, marine and air transportation service providers.
        The vast majority of complaints received involve air carriers (both
        Canadian and international). In 2008-09, the Agency processed some
        1,200 air travel complaints on issues ranging from lost baggage to
        flight disruptions and delays.

    -   The majority of the Agency's work is driven by complaints from
        travellers and occasionally other interested parties. Each case is
        decided on its own merit and the resulting decisions are only
        applicable to the carrier or carriers named in the complaint.

    -   In all cases, the Agency assesses the complainant's case against the
        carrier's tariff-the contract between the passenger and the air
        carrier that includes the terms and conditions of carriage. Tariffs
        are required to be:
           -  clear;
           -  just, reasonable, not unduly discriminatory;
           -  applied by the carrier; and
           -  consistent with international agreements or conventions to
              which Canada is a signatory.

    -   Most air complaints are settled informally by Agency staff.
        Complaints are assessed to ensure the carrier has respected its
        tariff and legal obligations. Where it appears they have not, staff
        will approach the carrier and attempt to facilitate a resolution of
        the complaint. The Agency also offers mediation, where parties
        involved in a complaint work with a mediator to negotiate a
        settlement. In 2008-09, 676 cases were closed through the Agency's
        facilitation process.

    -   In cases where a complainant believes that a carrier has not applied
        its tariff or that its tariff is unreasonable, it can request that
        the case be considered through formal adjudication, a court-like
        process with a panel of Agency Members who hear and make a
        determination on the complaint. The result of formal adjudication is
        a legally-binding decision.

    -   Twenty-three tariff-related cases were resolved through formal
        adjudication in 2008-09. Four cases alleged that the air carriers'
        tariffs contained provisions that were unreasonable, 19 complaints
        that the carrier failed to apply the tariff.

    -   The Agency can address complaints about provisions included in the
        carrier's terms and conditions of service, such as:
           -  baggage issues,
           -  flight disruptions,
           -  tickets and reservations,
           -  denied boarding (for example, due to overbooking),
           -  refusal to transport (because of late arrival or because of
              missing travel documents),
           -  fares and charges,
           -  cargo (like animals), and
           -  loyalty programs if they are owned by the carrier (this
              excludes Aeroplan(R) and Air Miles(R), which are independent).

    -   Although the Agency keeps track of the number of requests it receives
        about safety issues, it does not deal with these matters and refers
        them to Transport Canada. The Agency also cannot deal with quality of
        service issues like friendliness of staff.
    

Corrective Measures and Enforcement

    
    -   In issuing a decision, the Agency can order the air carrier in
        question to change its tariff and its terms and conditions of
        carriage if such are found to be unreasonable or where a carrier has
        failed to apply its tariff. In some cases, the Agency can order the
        carrier to compensate passengers for out-of-pocket expenses incurred
        as a result of the incident and provide restitution for any damages
        such as lost baggage.

    -   However, it cannot order compensation to passengers for pain and
        suffering or loss of enjoyment, nor can it levy punitive damages or
        impose penalties or order the carrier to compensate every passenger
        on a flight for failing to follow their own terms and conditions.

    -   The Flight Rights Canada tariff provisions incorporated by WestJet,
        Air Canada, Jazz and Air Transat introduce the concept of tarmac
        delays into their tariffs. Should a complaint arise on these types of
        delays, the Agency could only determine if the carrier had followed
        its tariff by providing drinks, snacks and returning passengers to
        the gate if the delay was longer than 90 minutes. While the Agency
        could not order additional compensation to passengers, it could order
        other appropriate measures as it deemed appropriate (e.g. additional
        training for staff, or to develop and communicate clear policies and
        procedures).

    -   In resolving air travel complaints (other than those related to
        accessibility for persons with disabilities), the Agency's
        jurisdiction does not extend to airports, the Canadian Air Transport
        Security Authority, NAV CANADA, the Canada Border Services Agency or
        any other player in the aviation industry.

    -   The Agency's Enforcement Division conducts inspections and
        investigations across Canada, and can issue warnings and fines; these
        include administrative monetary penalties when an air carrier fails
        to comply with a legal requirement, including orders of the Agency.
    

SOURCE Canadian Transportation Agency

For further information: For further information: News Media Enquiries: Natalie Hanson at (819) 934-9042; General Public Enquiries: info@otc-cta.gc.ca, 1-888-222-2592


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