Canada’s four largest airlines unveiled a legally binding passenger bill of rights Monday in a pre-emptive move to keep the government from imposing costly new consumer protection legislation.
Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, WestJet and Air Transat – which banded together to form the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) – proposed their new tariffs as an alternative to NDP MP Jim Maloway’s private member’s bill, which they said would hurt the industry.
Bill C-310, which is modeled after European legislation, proposes that travellers kept on a plane for more than 60 minutes before taking off be entitled to $500 an hour in compensation.
Other measures include forcing carriers to pay up to $1,200 to travellers bumped off a flight longer than 3,500 kilometres and requiring that airlines advertise fares that include all fees and surcharges.
Maloway told Metro Vancouver he’s not out to “destroy the airline business.”
“We have a very balanced approach,” he said Monday, adding that the bill includes exemptions for extraordinary circumstances.
“We’re not going to penalize the airline for not flying in bad weather,” he said. “This is nothing but self-interest and greed on the part of the airlines.”
But the airlines said the bill is excessively punitive and responded by submitting alternative amendments to their airline tariffs – the terms and conditions between the airline and passenger – to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).
The tariffs include offering meal vouchers for four-hour delays, paying for overnight accommodation when necessary, rebooking or offering refunds to bumped passengers, and letting travellers off the plane if they’re on the tarmac longer than 90 minutes.
George Petsikas, president of the NACC, said the bill was drafted with little consideration for the effect its provisions will have.
“The compensation figures per passenger proposed by the bill represent double or triple an average base fare,” he wrote in a May 3 letter to the House of Commons.
“In the current economic downturn, airlines are already struggling to provide service to their customers. Air carriers will have to increase ticket prices substantially in order to recover the costs contemplated by the bill.”
By making the tariffs legally binding, the CTA would have the authority to rule on any complaints related them.
“You can make a complaint and we can (rule) as to whether your complaint is founded, and order them to change the tariff,” said Marc Comeau, CTA spokesman.
Bill C-310 will be brought to the House of Commons for a second vote on Friday.
If the carriers’ bill is approved instead, the tariff changes could be in place by June.