New federal task force to review government service delays, reduce wait times

Federal govt.’s new airfare refund rules come into effect Sept. 8, 2022

OTTAWA — Updated regulations for airfare refunds, in the works since December 2020, have at long last been finalized and will come into force on Sept. 8, 2022.

Up until now, Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations required refunds to be provided for flight disruptions within the control of airlines.

According to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), the new requirements will require airlines to provide passengers 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 that prevents it from ensuring that passengers complete their itinerary within a reasonable time.

The regulations will apply to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights, effective Sept. 8.

Back in December 2020 then-Transport Minister Marc Garneau gave the CTA the authority to develop a new regulation on the issue of refunds to passengers, after the early months of the pandemic – and the ensuing chaos with travel’s shutdown and airline refunds – exposed the gaps with the old regulations.

At that time Garneau’s direction included instructions to the CTA to design the regulations “in a manner that is fair and reasonable to passengers and, to the extent possible, not impose an undue financial burden on carriers that could lead to their insolvency.”

The CTA’s consultation period started Dec. 21, 2020. The CTA posted the proposed regulations in July 2021, for public review and comment, leading to a second round of consultations with stakeholders and the public.

Here’s a detailed look at the new regulatory requirements …

  • Require airlines to provide a passenger affected by a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to a situation outside the airline’s control with a confirmed reservation on the next available flight that is operated by them or a partner airline, leaving within 48 hours of the departure time indicated on the passenger’s original ticket. If the airline cannot provide a confirmed reservation within this 48-hour period, it will be required to provide, at the passenger’s choice, a refund or rebooking;
  • Identify what costs must be refunded (unused portion of the ticket, which includes any unused add-on services paid for);
  • Identify the method to be used for refunds (same as the original payment, e.g., a return on the person’s credit card);
  • Require airlines to provide a refund within 30 days.

Says Transport Minister Omar Alghabra: ”These new requirements provide clarity around timing, cost coverage, method of payment, and deadlines to refund travellers in such situations. They were developed in a manner that is fair and reasonable to passengers, with the goal of not imposing an undue financial burden on air carriers that could result in higher travel costs.”

He added: “Whether due to a large-scale cancellation or a small incident, we know that sometimes travel doesn’t go according to plan. These new regulations will protect travellers in these unexpected situations. Our government will continue to protect the interests of passengers.”