Starting Sunday, airlines have to compensate you for flight delays of three hours or more

By: Lisa Coxon on December 11, 2019

Starting Dec. 15, passengers whose flights are delayed by three hours or more will be entitled to receive compensation, CBC News reported on Tuesday. 

This is the second phase of new air passenger regulations that first came into effect on July 15, and stipulated that passengers receive compensation of up to $2,400 for being bumped from overbooked flights, and up to $2,100 if their baggage is lost or damaged.

According to CBC News, effective Sunday, large airlines like Air Canada, Air Transat, and WestJet, will be mandated to pay between $400 and $1,000 for flights to, from, or within Canada, that are delayed by three hours or more. 

Smaller airlines, like Swoop and Flair, will have to pay $125 to $500 for the same.

The range in compensation is based on how long the flight is delayed. For example, the $400 is provided if your flight with a large airline is delayed anywhere from three to six hours. If your flight is delayed for six to nine hours, you’ll receive $700 in compensation; and if it’s delayed nine hours or more, you’re entitled to $1,000.

If your flight with a small airline is delayed three to six hours, you get $125; six to nine hours and that increases to $250, and nine or more hours gets you the $500.

Airlines won’t, however, be required to compensate passengers if a flight has been delayed due to inclement weather or a mechanical problem. Seeing as those are incredibly common reasons for delays, it might appear as though the rules aren’t really in the favour of passengers.

However, Ian Jack, a spokesperson from the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), told CBC News that if the rules were expanded to include any and all delays, it could encourage airlines to fly even when there’s a known risk to doing so, just in order to avoid having to compensate passengers.

“There is a balancing act there between passenger rights and safety that has to be maintained,” he said.

Jack said he’s more concerned about airlines falsifying the reason for a delay in order to avoid having to pay. 

“There's a clear financial incentive on the face of it for a carrier to classify a problem as being weather related, or mechanically related, because then they can save themselves potentially thousands of dollars for one flight,” he said.

But the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) assured CBC News that it will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that no airline takes advantage of the rules.

The CTA said that airlines will have to document the reasons for delay for each flight, and report that information to Transport Canada. If a passenger files a claim for compensation for a delay, the onus will be on the airlines to demonstrate why said flight doesn’t qualify for compensation. If airlines violate these new rules, they’re looking at a $25,000 fine. 

Airline passengers will have up to one year to file a claim for compensation for a delayed flight. And airlines will have 30 days to either provide compensation or provide a reason for why it believes the flight doesn’t qualify for compensation.

Ehsan Monfared, an aviation lawyer in Toronto, told CBC News that passengers could see flight fare hikes in order for airlines to make up for lost revenue from these new rules.

“Since airlines generally only have one revenue source, that being the traveling public, as their costs are raised due to these regulations, all passengers generally will bear this burden,” he said.