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Backlog of air passenger complaints tops 57,000, hitting new peak | CBC Information Categorical Occasions

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The backlog of air passenger complaints at Canada’s transport regulator has hit a brand new excessive, topping 57,000, as dissatisfaction over cancellations and compensation persist three and a half years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The numbers reveal that a median of greater than 3,000 complaints monthly have piled up on the Canadian Transportation Company (CTA) over the previous yr, with the present tally properly over 3 times the whole from September 2022.

Vancouver residents Chad Kerychuk and Melissa Oei say they’re mulling a grievance after they arrived in Halifax six hours later than deliberate on a flight from their hometown in August 2021 and located themselves separated on board regardless of shopping for pricier tickets to pick side-by-side spots upfront.

The couple mentioned WestJet has rejected their request for a partial refund.

“Greater than a yr has lapsed because the departure date and the declare interval has expired. As such, your declare can’t be authorized,” WestJet informed them in an e mail.

Kerychuk mentioned the response “appears like a incorrect strategy to deal with loyal prospects,” after years of choosing that provider over opponents.

“There was no effort made to assist us, as a result of we supported them through the pandemic. And I assumed that was utterly unfair,” he mentioned in a telephone interview.

WestJet notified prospects the disruption was brought on by “unplanned upkeep,” an exclusion from compensation guidelines that the federal authorities says will quickly be unavailable to carriers.

In June, the federal government handed laws to overtake Canada’s passenger rights constitution, laying out measures to toughen penalties and tighten loopholes round traveller compensation in addition to streamline the complaints course of.

“There can be no extra loopholes the place airways can declare a disruption is brought on by one thing exterior of their management for a safety motive when it isn’t,” Omar Alghabra, the transport minister on the time, informed reporters in April.

The Canadian Press has reached out to the transportation company and WestJet for remark.

Whereas most reforms aren’t slated to take impact till Sept. 30, Air Passenger Rights advocacy group president Gábor Lukács claims the company might take steps instantly to lift the utmost superb for airline violations and kick off consultations on who bears the executive value of complaints.

Their rising tally comes as no shock to him.

“These hovering numbers present the failure of the federal government to design laws which are literally virtually enforceable and supply significant safety to passengers,” Lukacs mentioned.

He pointed to the Air Passenger Safety Laws, often known as the passenger rights constitution, that the federal government launched in 2019 — a authorized milestone for Canadian travellers, however one which didn’t reside as much as its promise on account of loopholes and lack of simplicity, Lukacs mentioned.

“The federal government adopted a regime which is so difficult, so advanced … that it takes inordinate assets to really confirm eligibility (for compensation),” he mentioned.

He additionally known as out a “dismal report” of enforcement.

“The few fines that are being issued are for low-hanging fruit … and the CTA has not truly laid the groundwork to challenge larger fines.”

A passenger is pictured navigating mass delays at Vancouver Worldwide Airport after a heavy snowfall on Dec. 20, 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The amendments to the passenger rights constitution permit the regulator to ratchet up the utmost penalty for airline violations to $250,000 — a tenfold improve — and put the regulatory value of complaints on carriers. In idea, that measure offers airways an incentive to brush up their service and thus cut back the variety of grievances in opposition to them.

Since April 1, 2022, WestJet has acquired 9 fines from the CTA amounting to $280,580 for numerous breaches, based on knowledge on the quasi-judicial physique’s web site.

Of that quantity, practically $124,000 stems from failing to “present the prescribed compensation requested by passenger or a proof as to why compensation isn’t payable, inside 30 days after the day on which it acquired the request,” the contravention notices state.

The company has slapped Air Canada with six penalties — just one pertaining on to compensation — totalling $82,650 since April 1, 2022. Its income within the 15 months after that date totalled $24.3 billion.

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