Canadian transport minister faces questions over airport delays

By Thomson Reuters Aug 19, 2022 | 6:06 AM

By Allison Lampert

(Reuters) – Canada’s transport minister is expected to defend the government’s response to recent travel chaos at a Friday parliamentary hearing, as aviation wrestles with surging passenger demand after a pandemic-induced slump.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra will update a transportation committee on progress in areas like hiring, a spokesperson said, following recent complaints by passengers of lost luggage and long lines.

Carriers in the United States and Canada are cutting thousands of flights to reduce disruptions during peak travel periods.

Canada’s busiest airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, had among the most flight delays in the world earlier this summer, according to FlightAware data.

While baggage handling and average wait times for passengers have improved in recent weeks, governments in both countries are facing calls to improve protections for travelers.

“The increase in passenger volume and the labor shortage that arose from the pandemic are the main causes of these delays,” Alghabra’s spokesperson said ahead of the hearing on airport delays and cancellations.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that provides consumer protection for air passengers, said it had received a record 18,200 complaints by the end of July 2022, mostly for air travel.

Under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations, travelers are entitled to compensation for flight cancellations and delays of 3 hours or more, if the disruption is within airlines’ control and not related to safety.

Canadian media reports have been rife with passengers saying they were refused compensation due to safety reasons. Consumer advocates say some of those cancellations were related to crew shortages.

The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), a trade group representing Canada’s largest airlines, said compensation varies by case and the system must allow “airlines to make decisions based on safety without being penalized.”

As of Sept. 8, new Canadian requirements will oblige airlines to provide passengers with either a refund or rebooking, for flight disruption outside their control.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Sandra Maler)