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EDITORIAL: Flight rights

Industry watchers warn that air travel could get more costly given recent business acquisitions and the lessening of competition. —
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If this doesn’t motivate airlines to clean up their act, then nothing will.

On Monday, the Canadian Transportation Agency’s new air passenger protection regulations came into effect, which include hefty financial compensations for losing or damaging luggage and bumping customers from overbooked fights.

A Postmedia story this week sheds some light on the new regulations and financial compensation amounts for upset customers.

Customers denied boarding a fight who ultimately arrive at their destination up to six hours late can receive $900. This amount doubles to $1,800 for passengers delayed by six to nine hours and $2,400 for delays more than nine hours.

Damaged or lost luggage can net passengers up to $2,100, and $1,000 if a delay was deemed to be in the airline’s control. Other infractions include tarmac delays and, interestingly, damaging or losing musical instruments.

Everyone can relate to the nervous anticipation of waiting to see if your bags are the next ones to pass onto the luggage carousel. And if they don’t, the gutwrenching feeling that your personal belongings are lost, and the hassle of dealing with customer service agents to find out what happens next.

That alone can ruin a family’s vacation.

And so too can making seat reservations only to arrive at the airport and find out you’re bumped because the flight is overbooked. This is reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry reserved a mid-sized car, only to find out that the rental company didn’t have any left. In a classic exchange, Jerry reminds the rental agent that anyone can take a reservation, but the point is to actually hold the reservation.

Some Islanders can certainly relate to overbooking and getting bumped at the airport, including Brett Doyle and his family in 2017. They prepaid for a flight to Costa Rica during March break, and when they arrived at the Charlottetown airport, their 10-year-old son Cole was bumped from the flight. The family eventually made it to their destination together, but only after driving to Moncton and then Halifax to catch a flight. For their troubles, they were offered a $2,500 voucher and $1,000 to cover expenses. But they were less than thrilled with how Air Canada handled the situation.

If these new regulations accomplish anything, let’s hope it puts an end to that bizarre practice of overbooking flights to accommodate for the possibility of cancellations.

It’s disappointing that airline companies and the International Air Transport Association took the matter to federal court to have the regulations tossed out.

They were unsuccessful and are upset. But ultimately, the airlines have nobody to blame but themselves. They had plenty of time to change their practices and do a better job respecting customers and their property.

The compensation amounts are hefty, but that is the only way to get the message through to airlines — hit them in the pocket book.


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