You’ve been heard. Since the new Air Passenger Protection Regulations came into effect last summer the agency that monitors complaints and enforces the rules has been getting an earful. The Canadian Transportation Agency has received 9,757 complaints and indicates that several hundred of them are about disputes over compensation that passengers say they are entitled to get under new rules.

CTV News reported just this week how a passenger returning from Mexico had their flight cancelled and blamed on maintenance which would have required Air Canada to compensate him. Then when he filed for  compensation, the airline blamed weather, which meant the company would not have to pay up.

| Related Passenger says Air Canada  fails to pay up |

The new regulations have given airlines a lot of wiggle room to get out of having to pay. All they have to do is claim it’s a safety issue and due to conditions out their control.

Here’s what is expected of airlines:

  • If a flight is delayed or cancelled for reasons fully within the airline's control, passengers have a right to compensation for inconvenience and standards of treatment like food and water.
  • If a flight is delayed or cancelled for reasons within the airline's control but required for safety – such as a mechanical issue that could not have been identified and fixed during regular maintenance – passengers have a right to standards of treatment, but not compensation.
  • If the flight is delayed or cancelled for reasons outside the airline's control – like bad weather – the airline only has to ensure that passengers can complete their journeys.

The CTA says it’s received complaints that airlines have failed to accurately communicate the reasons for delays and cancellations. Many passengers have complained that they’ve had to fight to get what they deserve.

The Canadian Transportation Agency’s  chief compliance officer has now been appointed to lead an inquiry into the allegations. Over the next six weeks the agency will analyze evidence from the airlines on the delays and cancellations that have been subject to complaints.

“Airlines have an obligation, under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, to provide timely, accurate information to passengers on the reasons for flight delays and cancellations. This inquiry will look into allegations that in some cases, airlines haven't lived up to this obligation. If the evidence shows that happened, we'll take appropriate action," Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency stated in a news release.

Passenger rights advocate Gábor Lukács said he is skeptical of any real change because, according to him, the root of the problem is the government's fundamentally flawed legistation. 

"The CTA's impartiality is questionable. I am concerned that the outcome of the inquiry will be mostly whitewashing the airlines with a small slap on the wrist," he said. 

However, that remains to be seen and CTV News will be following up on this story as it develops.