The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is launching a consultation today to develop regulations on “additional refund obligations for airlines” when flights must be cancelled “for reasons outside airlines' control.”
The CTA will develop regulations only if given authority by either Parliamentary legislation, or through a formal direction from the Minister of Transportation.
Yesterday, the Government of Canada announced the sudden suspension of flights from the United Kingdom in response to a new variant of the COVID-19 virus which was discovered last week.
Trudeau's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau first informed the CTA of his intention to provide authority to develop these regulations on Friday, two days ahead of the U.K. flight cancellations.
According to the press release from Minister Garneau,
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a gap in the air passenger protection framework, which did not foresee the potential for large-scale and lengthy flight cancellations and groundings of air carrier fleets not only in Canada but globally. In the event of a future situation that causes similar large-scale flight cancellations, this gap needs to be closed so that travellers are treated fairly.
“Today I issued a Ministerial Direction to provide the Canadian Transportation Agency with the authority to develop a new regulation on the issue of refunds to passengers. This new regulation will apply to future flights that are cancelled for reasons outside an air carrier's control, such as a pandemic, and where it is not possible for the carrier to complete the passenger's itinerary within a reasonable timeframe.
“This updated regulation should be made in a manner that is fair and reasonable to passengers, and to the extent possible not impose an undue financial burden on air carriers that could lead to their insolvency.”
A recent Statistics Canada report on air traffic showed that while 162 million passengers enplaned and deplaned in Canada in 2019, COVID is likely to cause an “abrupt end to this trend."