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This new guide is supposed to help Canadians with cancelled flights. But will it?

Are you afraid to fly due to the number of cancellations?
Many flights were changed over the Canada Day long weekend in 2022. A Vancouver, BC man says he was stranded after Air Canada cancelled his flights.

If you've had a flight delayed or cancelled in the past few weeks, you are far from alone. 

While it has been difficult to travel over the past two years, the industry has been overwhelmed with an influx of travellers eager to return to the skies as border measures are relaxed in Canada and around the world.

As of April 1, fully vaccinated Canadians returning to the country no longer needed to provide a negative result from a PCR test.  And, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the number of return air trips by Canadian residents rose steeply from 23,600 in April 2021 to 611,500 in April 2022.

Numerous travellers say their flights were cancelled or delayed over the Canada Day long weekend, including a Vancouver man who says he was stranded on the other side of the country with his wife after Air Canada cancelled and rebooked his flights. 

After multiple cancellations, the couple had to spend the night in Montreal and they paid for a night at a hotel at their own expense. Before that, however, they waited at a customer service desk for three hours "which only had [one] agent working and over 100 people in line," before the employee went off shift and everyone was "left stranded," the exasperated traveller told Vancouver Is Awesome.

Flights cancelled in Canada: The Canadian Transportation Agency 

On Wednesday (July 6), the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) released a new resource for travellers who experience flight delays, cancellations, and baggage loss. 

The document outlines information about travellers' rights and what they should do if their flight is delayed or cancelled, according to the online Air Passenger Protection (APP) document. It also provides information on the steps to take if their baggage is lost, damaged, or delayed.

Some of the key takeaways from the agency include making copies of all of your correspondence with the airline, staying up-to-date with airline notifications in its app or website, asking airline attendants for information about the next steps, holding onto receipts, and filing complaints as soon as possible. 

But air passenger rights advocates say the CTA isn't acting in the passengers' interests. 

Dr. Gábor Lukács is the founder and president of Air Passenger Rights—a group that gives airline customers information about their rights so they are capable of enforcing them against airlines. He told Vancouver Is Awesome that the CTA has acted in the interests of the airlines over passengers for years. 

"In March 2020, driven by concern for airlines' bottom line instead of [the] passenger's interests, the CTA disseminated misleading and false information about passengers' right to a refund on its website," he explained. 

And then in February 2022,  the House of Commons' Transport Committee expressed concern about regulatory capture at the CTA, Lukács said. 

"The CTA has systematically failed to use its broad enforcement powers to issue monetary penalties to airlines that violate passenger's rights."

Instead of turning to the agency or an airline, the air passenger rights advocate urges travellers to take their cases to small claims courts, where they can get a "fair hearing before an impartial judge or adjudicator."

By directing complaints to itself, Lukács says the CTA can then "mislead passengers that the airline did everything properly."

What travellers need to know about Canada's new flight refund rules

On June 22, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) announced new regulations requiring airlines to provide additional refund requirements to customers who have flights delayed by over three hours or more; the changes come into effect on Sept. 8.

According to the CTA, the new rules require Canadian airlines to provide customers with "either a refund or rebooking, at the passenger's choice, when there is a flight cancellation, or a lengthy delay, due to a situation outside the airline's control."

But Lukács wrote in a blog post that the "new refund regulations shortchange Canadians" because airlines can offer a new flight within 48 hours instead of paying the refund — regardless of the customer's needs. 

In other words, a traveller who needs to fly from Vancouver to Montreal for a wedding and needs to leave on a Friday could have their flight changed to the following Sunday and receive no compensation from the airline. In this scenario, the flight would arrive at the destination after the event finished and the customer would have no reason to travel.

Find out more information about the CTA changes