Flight cancelled? Got bumped? Here’s what your airline owes you
There are few things as defeating as rounding the home stretch on the last leg of a trip and finding out your flight has been cancelled or you checked in a few minutes too late and now you’re bumped from the flight.
But don’t despair; you’re protected says the National Airlines Council of Canada – an industry organization representing carriers like Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation and WestJet.
“NACC member airlines recognize the importance of consumer protection and have adopted the responsibilities and obligations outlined in Flight Rights Canada, the Government of Canada’s air travel consumer protection initiative,” Marc-André O’Rourke, executive director of the NACC told Yahoo Canada via an emailed statement.
O’Rourke is referring to the passenger-geared initiative launched in 2008, which requires carriers to address concerns including denied boarding as a result of overbooking, delays, cancellations, passenger re-routing, and lost and damaged baggage. “(Except for) weather‐related incidents or events caused by a third party, our member carriers honour the rights of passengers outlined in the code of conduct,” he said in his statement.
Although the code of conduct is voluntary, in 2009 major Canadian airlines including Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, abide by the guidelines and have fine-tuned their tariffs (official speak for the agreement between airlines and passengers.)
Get what you paid for
According to the code, passengers have a right to information on flight times and schedule changes and airlines must make reasonable efforts to inform passengers of those changes. Passengers have a right to take the flight they paid for.
“If the plane is over-booked or cancelled, the airline must find the passenger a seat on another flight operated by that airline, buy the passenger a seat on another carrier with whom it has a mutual interline traffic agreement or refund the unused portion of the passenger’s ticket,” says the FRC.
When a plane is overbooked, the major carriers will usually call on volunteers to take an alternate flight. But either way, whether you’re a volunteer or involuntarily bumped due to a cancelled flight, the airline needs to compensate you in travel vouchers or cash – your choice.
Time is on your side
The code also looks at the punctuality angle.
“If the passenger is already on the aircraft when a delay occurs, the airline will offer drinks and snacks if it is safe, practical and timely to do so,” says the code of conduct. “If the delay exceeds 90 minutes and circumstances permit, the airline will offer passengers the option of disembarking from the aircraft until it is time to depart.”
When a flight is delayed and the departure is more than four hours after the schedule time, passengers should be provided with meal vouchers. If that delay slips beyond eight hours and requires an overnight stay – the airline will comp the hotel and airport transfers for passengers.
The price is right
Monetary compensation varies from carrier to carrier.
For instance, Air Canada offers $200 to any bumped passenger who is delayed reaching their original destination by two hours, $400 for delays between two and six hours and $800 for delays over six hours.
WestJet uses a higher buffer when a passenger is denied boarding on a plane they were confirmed a seat. If you get to your destination an hour late but less than two hours after the planned arrival time, they will be compensated 200 per cent of the total price of their ticket up to a maximum $650. When that delay climbs to more than two hours, WestJet will compensate 400 per cent of the total price to the passenger’s first destination or stopover up to $1,300.
In the U.S. the Depart of Transportation requires airlines to compensate bumped passengers. It’s more or less in line with the FRC and is just as relevant whether you’re taking off from Chicago’s O’Hare or LAX.
“If the airline is not able to get you to your final destination within one hour of your original arrival time, the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200 percent of your one-way fare, with a maximum of $650,” states the DoT’s website.
With most carriers – U.S. or Canadian – compensation is to be made at the moment and place the denied boarding occurs, so start with the gate agent. If you catch an alternate flight before the compensation takes place, you have a right to get compensation in a timely manner from the airline so be sure to call customer service as soon as possible and notify them of the situation.
While tariffs vary, it might be wise to ask the airline for a printed copy of its tariff to review before you agree to any handouts. In the event that it’s a Canadian carrier and you still feel shunned by the delay or cancellation, escalate it by taking your complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency.