Since 2019, airline customers in Canada are supposed to be protected by a charter. Minister Marc Garneau was quite proud, when the said charter was adopted, to go on his rounds of interviews to explain to us that there would be a "before" and an "after".
Delays, cancellations, loss of luggage, the citizen victim of a failure in the service offered should be able to be compensated. The reasonable compensation scales established by the government would guarantee compensation proportional to the inconvenience suffered.
If they believed in the promises of this charter, the thousands of travelers who went through hell during the holiday season will probably fall from the top. And I put aside cases of force majeure. When the weather prevents a safe flight, we understand that planes must remain grounded and that companies cannot be held responsible.
The list of reasons airlines use to refuse to pay compensation makes a mockery of the Travelers Charter. First, carrier lobbyists have been effective in negotiating a good list of exceptions, which gives them a way out. Then the companies outrageously stretched the rubber band in their interpretation of these exceptions.
As a result, consumers in Canada are not much better protected. Our charter certainly has nothing to do with the kind of protection European travelers enjoy. Although our plane tickets cost significantly more than in Europe.
The most interesting example, which will be challenged in court in a class action, is the use of the safety argument. If one morning, a company does not have all the necessary rested personnel, prudence dictates that the flight be canceled. Safety first. The companies so far seem to get away with this argument.
Yet, it is quite absurd to put understaffing (business management) and a storm (Act of God) in the same category.
I experienced the Travelers Charter myself in the summer of 2021. Trip with a friend, organized at the last minute: five days of golf on the incomparable courses of Prince Edward Island. A flight to Charlottetown on the wings of Air Canada.
We arrive at dawn at Trudeau airport on the day of departure. Rumor has it that the pilot or co-pilot did not return. Canceled flight. At first we hoped and believed that the flight would be resumed later in the day. No. Tomorrow ? No space. Next seats available: day four of our five-day vacation. Water trip.
The only solution was to cancel the trip altogether and fight for refunds for accommodation and golf reservations.
I made the sad discovery that even in such a blatant case, the charter did not protect me. To compensate for the damage, the carrier generously offered me a travel credit... on Air Canada wings!