Mr. Chair, Honourable Senators, thank you for the privilege to appear here today.
I am the founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights, an independent nonprofit network of volunteers, devoted to empowering travellers through education, advocacy, investigation, and litigation.
We bring a unique perspective to the Committee, because we accept no government or business funding, and we have no business interest in Bill C-49.
We represent the consumer perspective, the passengers whom we help daily in their struggle to enforce their rights.
Although the government portrayed Bill C-49 as improving the passengers’ rights, this is clearly not the case. The Bill seeks to remove or reduce rights that passengers already have.
Tarmac Delays: Water, Food, and Disembarkment
Imagine this committee being held captive in a metal tube with wings for 3 hours with scores of other people, with limited or no food or water, possibly clogged toilets, limited fresh air or heat, and absolutely no say in the matter.
You would never impose that even on your worst enemies.
Yet, in part, that is what Bill C-49 seeks to inflict upon Canadians.
The Bill seeks to double the length of time passengers may be confined to an aircraft without water and food, from the current 90 minutes to 3 hours.
This is not only inhumane, but also unreasonable.
The current 90-minute rule is binding. An airline that breaks the rule can be fined. For nearly 10 years, passengers and airlines were both content with the current 90-minute rule.
Please, keep the current 90-minute rule, and amend proposed paragraph 86.11(1)(f) by replacing "3 hours" with "90 minutes."
Compensation for Flight Disruptions
Bill C-49 creates a new category of flight disruptions that are within the airline’s control, but nevertheless, no compensation is owed to passengers. This category is to include
“mechanical malfunctions” too.
This is a step backwards.
Under the Carriage by Air Act, which incorporates the Montreal Convention, an airline is liable up to approximately CAD$8,800 per passenger for delay in transportation.
Canadian courts confirmed that maintenance issues do not relieve the airline from liability for delay, and European courts reached the same conclusion.
In Europe, airlines are required to pay specific compensation for flight disruptions due to maintenance issues. And yet, they have a healthy competitive market and profitable airlines.
Please, give Canadian passengers the same protection as provided in the European Union. It has been tested. It works.
Barring Public Interest Advocacy
Successful public interest complaints bridge the chasm between existing consumer protection laws and the airlines’ policies and practices that often blatantly disregard and misrepresent the law to the public.
The Supreme Court of Canada recently confirmed that the law permits such complaints brought in the public interest. This judgment was handed down after the bill’s third reading in the House of Commons and second reading in the Senate.
Bill C-49 would reverse the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling by legislation. It would close the door to public interest advocacy and nail it shut by restricting the right to complain to those who are “adversely affected.”
The proposed restriction, introduced at the request of the airlines, targets air passenger advocacy groups, and the efforts of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
Please, protect public interest advocacy, and delete these measures, aimed at silencing us, from the Bill.
In closing, the Bill, as currently written, would be an attack on and greatly erode the existing, hard fought for, traveller rights.
Please be a “sober second thought,” and do not let this happen to Canadians.
Please listen to the 100,000 emails of Canadians, all asking for the same thing: fairness.
Please amend Bill C-49.