On Tuesday, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau introduced a passenger bill of rights as part of a package of amendments to the Canada Transportation Act. The bill follows an incident last month when an United Airlines passenger was violently dragged from a plane in Chicago after he refused to leave his seat on an overbooked flight.
Bill C-49 asks the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to set up clear standards for how passengers can be treated, including situations where they are denied boarding, their baggage is lost or they're delayed on the tarmac.
"This bill is smoke, mirrors and no teeth," passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs told CTV News.
Lukacs is concerned the bill doesn't lay out any specific penalties for companies that mistreat customers. The bill also specifies that complaints can only be filed by the person affected, and Lukacs worries that means advocates and organizations can't take legal action against airlines or the industry for a widespread problem like overbooking.
"This strikes me as an an attempt to shield airlines from complaints and further prevent the public from ensuring their rights," Lukacs said in an interview with CBC News.
The Facebook page Air Passenger Rights, run by Lukacs and other advocates, published a list of concerns with the proposed legislation on Wednesday.
"Bill C-49 contains no provisions about the enforcement of the rights of travellers, nor any new sanctions against airlines that break the rules," reads the post.
"It passes the buck to the Canadian Transportation Agency to establish standards at some point in the future."
The reputation of Canadian airlines lags behind others in North America. An air passenger satisfaction survey earlier this month ranked Air Canada at the bottom of North America's traditional carriers, and WestJet came second-last in the low-cost carrier category, HuffPost Canada reported.
The number of complaints against Canadian carriers more than doubled between 2011 and 2016, according to the CTA.
Sixty countries have some form of passenger rights legislation, and both the U.S. and E.U. have compensation rules for passengers that get bumped from flights, according to the BBC.
Author: Sarah Rieger