Clear Skies Ahead: Navigating Flight Disruptions

Understanding the Law

New rules are coming that will make air travel less bumpy. On June 22, 2023, the federal government passed a law to make it easier for you to get a refund or a new flight from the airline if your flight is cancelled or delayed. Here’s what you need to know. 

In Fall 2023, Éducaloi taught a clear legal communication course at the McGill University School of Continuing Studies. The course was offered as part of the Graduate Diploma in Legal Translation program.

For the end-of-term assignment, students had to apply clear communication principles to draft an original legal information text. Éducaloi selected the best French- and English-language texts for publication on its website.

Among the English-language entries, this text about new rules for air travel stood out.

New Rules Are Coming

You have rights when you fly to, from or within Canada. Under the new law, the Canadian Transportation Agency will have new powers to help passengers get a refund or a new flight when their flight is cancelled or delayed. 

The Agency is working on the new rules, which will be in place in 2024. 

Your Current Rights

Under current rules, when an airline delays or cancels a flight, your rights depend on how much control the airline has over the delay or cancellation. Your rights depend on whether the reason for the delay or cancellation is:

  • Within the airline’s control,
  • Within the airline’s control but required for safety,
  • Or outside the airline’s control.

It is not always easy to understand the difference between these reasons. And, depending on the reason, you must prove the airline owes you a refund or a new flight. 

Refund or New Flight?                               

Under the new rules, if your flight is delayed or cancelled, you can choose to get a refund or a new flight. What has not changed is that you will only get a refund or a new flight if your flight is cancelled or delayed less than 14 days before the day you are supposed to fly.

When the airline does not have to give you a new flight or a refund

Your airline will have to put you on a new flight or give you a refund unless it can show there is an “exceptional circumstance.” Airlines will have to explain why there is an “exceptional circumstance”. 

The new rules will have a list of “exceptional” situations, such as a severe storm that would make flying unsafe. The rules will also list the situations that are not “exceptional” such as not having enough crew for the flight.  

One of the roles of the Canadian Transportation Agency is to protect passengers. The Agency makes binding rules that the airlines must follow, which are called regulations. If you think an airline is not following the rules, you can make a complaint to the Agency.

Refunds for Travel Advisories

Another change is that you will be able to get a refund if the Government of Canada issues a Travel Advisory for your destination. Advisories give you information and advice about situations that could affect your safety when you travel outside Canada. If the Government says to “avoid” all travel or “avoid non-essential” travel to your destination, you will be able to get a refund from your airline. You can find a list of travel advisories here.

More Information for Passengers

Airlines must explain to passengers why the flight is delayed or cancelled in plain language. They must also tell passengers about their right to a refund or a new flight. If your flight is delayed more than 2 hours, the airline will have to explain how you can get help with meals and a hotel if you are delayed overnight.

Airlines must also tell passengers how they can complain to the Agency if they feel the airline did not follow the rules. The new law will also make airlines pay a fee if a passenger complains about them to the Agency. 

There is no cost to you to make a complaint against an airline.

As of September 30, 2023, the Agency has an easier and faster process for dealing with complaints. The old process was more like going to court.    

Find out more about these changes here.