Everything British Columbia residents need to know about flight cancellations

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In the wake of the travel chaos caused by the pandemic, you need to know your rights.

An air passenger rights advocate says people should research whether an airline has canceled their ticket, even if they receive a refund.

Dr. Gábor Lukács is the founder and chairman of Air Passenger Rights, a group that gives airline customers information about their rights so that they are able to enforce them against the airlines. He said Vancouver is great in a telephone interview that Canadians are often taken advantage of by airlines because they don’t know the rules.

And while many airlines will issue refunds due to long delays and cancellations, the air passenger rights advocate said they may be entitled to more than the cost of the ticket.

According to the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII), a non-profit organization that works to make Canadian law more accessible, airlines are responsible for providing accommodation to air travelers if they are required to wait overnight due to flight delay or cancellation. The airline must also provide transport to the accommodation and back to the airport.

But there are instances where an airline may not have to cover the cost of an overnight stay, particularly in the event of severe and unexpected weather events.

“If you have to spend the night in a hotel because your flight was canceled due to weather conditions, it is not the responsibility of the airline,” underlines Lukács, who noted that passengers must ask themselves why the flight was canceled and if it was beyond the control of the airline.

Although there are certain circumstances that airlines cannot prevent, many cancellations “are simply economic decisions”, he added. “If not the vast majority of them.”

Even in the event that an airline has to de-ice a plane, Lukács said airlines are not prepared to rebook a passenger on another flight, free of charge. They must plan and prepare for expected inclement weather, which includes budgeting for typical winter conditions.

When it comes to cancellations under the airline’s control, the airline is responsible for rebooking the passenger on an alternative flight or refunding them.

But if a passenger is informed of the delay less than 12 hours before the departure time indicated on their original ticket, article 14 of CANLII stipulates that they are entitled to monetary compensation. That’s why it’s essential to check the differences between your original ticket and the one you end up traveling on.

If a major Canadian carrier delays a flight by more than three hours, passengers are entitled to $400 in compensation, even if they are still booked on the same flight. Beyond six hours, they are entitled to $700 and beyond nine hours, they are entitled to $1,000. However, these figures are significantly lower for smaller carriers.

The airline should also provide you with the new flight status information as soon as possible. For delays, they must provide status updates every 30 minutes until a new departure time is set or new travel arrangements are made.

Some Other Considerations for British Columbia Air Travelers

For passengers who experience a delay while waiting on the tarmac, the carrier must provide them with adequate ventilation, restrooms, food, drink and heating/air conditioning.

If a traveler is booked on a different flight, they must have the same or higher class of service. In other words, an economy class seat will not work if the passenger has booked a first class ticket. As such, the carrier must reimburse the difference in cost of the applicable portion of the ticket.

What is a giveaway that a schedule change or cancellation was likely within an airline’s control?

“How far in advance did they notify a person of [a change]? If they let you know about two weeks in advance…you know that it was for business reasons that they decided to change,” Lukács noted.

The Canadian Transportation Agency website outlines several conditions that air passengers must meet to recover losses incurred during travel. For example, if an airline loses your baggage or your baggage is damaged or delayed, you can file a claim for expenses you incurred up to approximately $2,300; they must also reimburse you for the baggage fees you have paid.

Important considerations for baggage claims:

  • You must submit a written claim to your airline within 7 days of receiving your baggage if it is damaged.
  • You must submit a claim within 21 days for potentially lost baggage.

If you do not submit your application immediately, the airline may refuse it.

To receive compensation for flight delays or cancellations, you must file a claim in writing with the airline within one year of the date of the incident. The airline has 30 days to respond by issuing a refund or providing a reason why they believe a refund is not warranted.

Residents of British Columbia who have booked a travel package, flight or accommodation with a third-party provider can file a complaint with Consumer Protection BC if they meet specific criteria. Travelers should first try to receive a refund from the travel supplier. Learn more about the online qualification process.

The following notice must also be made available on all digital platforms that the carrier uses to sell tickets and on all documents on which the passenger’s itinerary appears:

“If you are denied boarding, your flight is canceled or delayed by at least two hours, or your baggage is lost or damaged, you may be entitled to certain standards of treatment and compensation under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations. For more information on your passenger rights, please contact your air carrier or visit the Canadian Transportation Agency website.

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