Compensation for Flight Delays in Canada: Know Your Rights

Compensation for flight delays in Canada

Read on to check if you’re entitled to compensation for flight delays in Canada. The Canadian government unveiled new rules in May 2019 to help protect consumers, and Mr. Thrifty outlines the key points below. You don’t need to be Canadian to benefit — the rules apply to all flights flown by any airline to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.

If you’re seeking compensation for flights flown to, from and within the European Union, Mr. Thrifty recommends you consult with AirHelp. You can read more about AirHelp’s service in our post “AirHelp Case Study: Levelling the Playing Field for Powerless Consumers“.

Few things are more aggravating than waiting for hours at an airport when your flight is delayed. In recent years, airlines have cut costs to the bone while introducing fees for many things that used to be included in the price of a ticket.

While running an airline is an incredibly challenging business, it seems that no one is looking out for the consumer. Well, thanks to the Canadian government (when was the last time you heard someone say that ???), things are about to change — Mr. Thrifty wants to give you the information you need to help you level the playing field.

On May 24, 2019 the Canadian government announced new Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which cover many situations such as delayed flights, cancelled flights, passengers denied boarding due to overbooking, etc.

The proposed regulations apply to all flights flown by any airline to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.

The provisions came into force in two stages: first on July 15, 2019, and then on December 15, 2019. They are now fully in force.

If you have the time and interest to get into the finer details of compensation for flight delays in Canada, here is a link to a master list of resources on the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) website, which goes through the legislative background to the Regulations, documents the consultations, and answers some frequently-asked questions:

And here is a link to the full text of the Regulations:

For an abridged version of the new regulations, and our suggestions on how to make the regulations work in your favour, we invite you to read on…..

How will the new requirements be enforced?

Airlines are required to follow the obligations set out in the regulations and are subject to penalties of up to $25,000 per incident of non-compliance. The CTA is responsible for enforcing the new regulations.

So, equipped with this knowledge, how easy will it be to actually claim and receive compensation?

Experience has shown that the airlines typically do all in their power to lowball consumers. Knowledge is power in this circumstance. Even so, the airlines (especially those based outside of Canada) can be expected to employ delaying and diverting tactics to, hopefully, frustrate passengers and cause them to compromise on less-than-full compensation. It’s happened to Mr. Thrifty on several occasions in the past, on his travels near and far.

Highlights of the new Canadian regulations

We’ve included below some of the highlights (excerpts were taken directly from the relevant materials on the government site as of May 25, 2019; refer to the regulations themselves for current information):

New requirements which came into force on July 15, 2019

How do the regulations address the practice of denying a passenger boarding without their agreement because of things like over-booking?

To minimize situations where passengers are denied boarding against their will, airlines are obligated to first seek volunteers willing to give up their seat. Airlines also have to establish and follow a priority boarding list (for example, persons with disabilities, families travelling together and unaccompanied minors will have to be considered last for denied boarding).

Airlines are also prevented from removing passengers already on board, except for safety, security or health reasons.

How much compensation is required for denied boarding?

Any passenger who is denied boarding against their will for a reason that is within the airline’s control and not required for safety – for example, overbooking or a change in aircraft due to scheduled maintenance – is entitled to compensation. A passenger’s compensation is based on the length of delay upon arrival at their final destination.

Length of delay: Amount (CAD)
0-6 hours: $900
6-9 hours: $1800
9+ hours: $2400

How long does an airline have to issue a payment for denied boarding?

For denied boarding, compensation must be issued to the passenger as soon as is operationally feasible, or no later than 48 hours after boarding is denied. If the carrier cannot provide compensation before the passenger’s new departure time, it must provide written confirmation of the amount owed. The carrier must adjust the amount of compensation accordingly, should the passenger arrive at their destination later than anticipated.

What form of compensation needs to be provided?

Airlines have to offer passengers compensation in monetary form (e.g., cheque, a deposit into the passenger’s bank account, etc.). They can also offer passengers alternative forms of compensation (e.g., vouchers or rebates), but passengers always have the right to select the option they prefer. Alternative forms of compensation offered also have to be of higher value than the monetary compensation that is required, and should never expire.

What are airlines required to do during a tarmac delay?

The regulations ensure that during tarmac delays – whether they occur in Canada or abroad – passengers are properly treated.  Every airline is obligated to have policies addressing passenger entitlements during tarmac delays, which the CTA can review and, if it finds the policies to be unreasonable, can change through an order. Under the regulations, standards of treatment have to include, at a minimum, access to working lavatories, proper ventilation and heating or cooling, food and drink, and, if feasible, the ability to communicate with people outside the plane free of charge.

After a three-hour tarmac delay at a Canadian airport, airlines are required to return to the gate so that passengers can disembark, if safe to do so. However, a plane is permitted to stay on the tarmac for up to an additional 45 minutes, if it is likely that it will take off within that period.

How are passengers compensated for lost or damaged baggage?

Under the Montreal Convention, an international air transport treaty to which Canada is a party, airlines can be held liable for baggage that is damaged or lost during international travel, up to approximately $2,100. To provide better protection to passengers travelling within Canada, the new regulations apply this scheme to domestic travel as well.

A passenger must file a claim for compensation with the airline. For damaged baggage, the claim must be submitted within seven days after the passenger receives the baggage. For potentially lost baggage, the claim must be submitted within 21 days after the day it was supposed to arrive.

In addition, the regulations require airlines to reimburse passengers for any baggage fees if their baggage is damaged or lost.

[By the way, if you need to buy new bags to replace those lost or damaged during your Canadian flight, check our Mr. Thrifty’s recommendations for the best carry-on bags here].

New requirements which came into force on December 15, 2019

What treatment are airlines required to provide during a flight delay?

The regulations establish a minimum treatment that airlines have to provide to passengers for delays within their control, including those required for safety purposes.

After a delay at departure of two hours, airlines have to provide:

  • food and drink in reasonable quantities; and
  • electronic means of communication (e.g., free Wi-Fi).

If a delay is expected to extend overnight, airlines have to offer hotel or comparable accommodation free of charge, as well as free transportation to and from the accommodation.

In what circumstances do airlines have to pay passengers compensation?

When there is a flight delay, cancellation or denial of boarding that is within the control of the airline and not required for safety purposes, airlines must provide compensation for the inconvenience.

How much compensation is required for delays and cancellations?

For delays and cancellations within the carrier’s control and not required for safety purposes, the airline is required to pay passengers compensation based on the length of delay upon arrival at the final destination:

Large Airlines

Length of delay: Amount (CAD)
3-6 hours: $400
6-9 hours: $700
9+ hours: $1000

Small Airlines

Length of delay: Amount (CAD)
3-6 hours: $125
6-9 hours $250
9+ hours $500

How do passengers receive compensation for a flight disruption?

In order to receive compensation for the inconvenience of a flight delay or cancellation, passengers must file a claim for compensation from the airline that operated the flight that was disrupted within one year. This is typically the airline that provided the aircraft and crew for the flight.

That airline will have 30 days to either pay the compensation owed or explain to passengers in writing why compensation is not owed. Should passengers not be satisfied with an airline’s response to their written complaint, they can file a complaint with the CTA.

Are airlines required to rebook delayed passengers?

For all delays, cancellations and denied boarding situations, airlines have to ensure that passengers reach their final destination. If a flight is cancelled, a passenger is denied boarding or a delay at departure reaches three hours, an airline has to offer to rebook the passenger on their next available flight.

If the situation is within the airline’s control, whether or not it’s related to safety requirements, large airlines have to rebook the passenger on another (competing) airline if their own next available flight departs nine or more hours after the passenger’s original departure time.

If the situation is outside the airline’s control, large airlines are required to rebook the passenger using the services of another (competing) airline if their own next available flight doesn’t depart within 48 hours of the passenger’s original departure time.

If there is no available flight departing the original airport within 48 hours of the original departure time, a large carrier must book the passenger on a flight from a nearby airport, if there is one available. The large carrier must also transport the passenger, free of charge, to that airport.

What happens if a passenger does not want to be rebooked by the airline?

If the rebooking offered by the airline does not meet a passenger’s travel needs (e.g., if there is no longer any purpose to the travel), the passenger is entitled to a refund, as well as compensation for inconvenience: $400 for large airlines and $125 for small airlines.

What are the new requirements regarding the seating of children?

Under the regulations, airlines have to facilitate, at no extra cost and at the earliest opportunity, the seating of children under the age of 14 in close proximity to their parent, guardian or tutor. The proximity depends on the age of the child:

Under the age of 5:
in a seat adjacent to their parent, guardian or tutor.

Aged 5 to 11:
in the same row and separated by no more than one seat from their parent, guardian or tutor.

Aged 12 or 13:
separated by no more than a row from the parent, guardian or tutor.

Airlines are also required to establish a policy for unaccompanied minors, and to prohibit minors under the age of five from travelling without their parent or an accompanying person who is at least 16 years old.

Click here for the full text of the Regulations:

The upshot for Canadian air travellers

Compensation for flight delays in Canada has been improved dramatically as a result of these new rules.

In the inevitable occurrence of a flight delay or cancellation, the situation at the airport is going to be confusing, crowded, and aggravating. You’ll probably want nothing more than to accept the solution being offered to you, and Mr. Thrifty can understand your position. He’s been there himself. But armed with this knowledge, you can press your case after the fact.

Click here for information and to open an account with AirHelp.


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  1. Do you obtain compensation for Canadian flight delays? If so how do I engage your services? Thanks

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