Porter Airlines ordered to stop discriminating bumped passengers departing from Canada

*** Porter Airlines ordered to stop discriminating compensation based on departing country

According to a ruling the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) handed down on Friday (announced in a press release issued today Monday Feb 3rd), Porter Airlines has been ordered to compensate bumped Canadian passengers travelling to the US. This CTA order finally forced Porter to match the compensation if flights departing from the U.S. So the compensation will now be “$650 or 200% of the airfare for delays of less than four hours, and $1,300 or 400% of the airfare for delays of over four hours” for flights departing from the U.S. (existing now) and from Canada (“by February 28, 2014“).

This positive improvement for air passengers is again the direct result of a complaint by Dr. Gabor Lukacs, a Halifax mathematician and air passenger rights advocate. Lukacs says that he is “very glad that Porter can no longer discriminate against Canadian passengers nor can it pocket the money of passengers without providing them service.

*** The Puzzling “Code of Conduct of Canada’s Airlines”

Lukacs explained in Friday’s decision, the CTA ruled that Porter does not have to comply with the “Code of Conduct of Canada’s Airlines,” a code agreed to in 2008 by the Harper government and Air Canada, Air Transat, and WestJet, and which has since become an industry standard.

Lukacs is puzzled as to why the CTA gave special treatment to Porter. When asked to elaborate on and add colours to his puzzlement, Lukacs explains (emphasis added),

What were are talking here about is the right of passengers for hotel, taxi, and meal vouchers in the case of flight delays/cancellations that are within the airline’s control, and which involve an overnight stay.

The industry standard, incorporated into the Code of Conduct, is to provice such vouchers.

The Montreal Convention only requires reimbursement of such expenses after they were incurred, but claiming expenses from an airline is a tiresome and difficult process. So, the advantage of vouchers is that the airline has to look after the passengers.

Just imagine yourself trying to find a hotel in an unknown city where you are stranded. It makes more sense that the airline will arrange for your accommodation, because they do know the city, they have the resources, and they can be billed directly for your accommodation.

It is also a problem that passengers are unaware of their rights, so if they are not provided vouchers, they do not have the courage to stay at a hotel at their own expense and claim it later — instead, they sleep at the airport, which is awful and unfair to the passengers.

*** The Toothless “Code of Conduct of Canada’s Airlines

Based on paragraph 17 of this Porter ruling, the “Analysis and findings” section states,

The Agency notes, as does Mr. Lukacs, that the Code of Conduct is voluntary, and was agreed upon by Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet. The word “voluntary”, in and of itself, is clearly indicative of a free and unrestrained will. In that sense, the Agency cannot force a carrier, through an Agency decision, to abide by that Code. In any case, the Agency agrees with Porter that its Proposed Tariff Rules provide, to the extent required, reasonable remedies for passengers who have been affected by flight delays. The Agency therefore finds that the absence from Porter’s Tariff of all of the elements of the Code of Conduct does not render the Tariff unreasonable within the meaning of subsection 111(1) of the ATR.

It may seem to be crystal clear to some observers that a “voluntary” code written in flowery words doesn’t worth the sheet of paper the code is written on. When the CTA has no power to enforce the code given the code is “voluntary“, the welfare of air passengers can be ignored by Airlines which seem to only care about their bottom-lines instead of total customer services and satisfaction.


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