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Canadians attempting to travel over the holidays this week faced a number of challenges getting to their destination, due to the onset of severe winter storms.

Major Canadian airlines canceled hundreds of flights across the country Thursday, Friday and Saturday amid freezing rain, blowing snow and high winds.

In response to the storms, Air Canada announced Thursday that it would be implementing a “goodwill refund policy” that allows customers to request a refund or travel voucher if they purchased a ticket on or before 21 December for travel to or from a Canadian airport between December 22 and Dec. 26.

“If you need to travel during the affected period, you can retrieve your reservation to request a refund up to two hours before departure, free of charge on your Air Canada flight,” a statement on the airline’s website reads.

Apart from gestures of goodwill, many Canadians wonder what their rights are in such situations. In Canada, air passengers can be compensated for flight delays and cancellations under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) of the Canadian Transportation Agency. APPR regulations can be difficult to analyze, warns Gabor Lukacs, Canadian air passenger advocate and president of the nonprofit Air Passenger Rights.

This month, Air Passenger Rights submitted a report to the House of Commons recommending an overhaul of the APPR, including simplifying language and definitions in the regulations.

“The terminology itself is very confusing,” Lukacs told CTVNews.ca in a Friday phone interview, adding that the APPR is “extremely complicated.”

To simplify matters, CTVNews.ca details passenger rights when a flight is delayed or canceled, including due to bad weather.

OUTSIDE THE AIRLINE’S CONTROL

Sometimes, as is the case for many Canadian travelers this week, a flight is canceled or delayed for reasons beyond the airlines control. These reasons may include weather conditions, war or political instability, air traffic control instructions, medical emergencies, security threat and other factors.

In the event of cancellation, denied boarding or a delay of three hours or more, airlines must offer passengers alternative travel arrangements or a refund. If passengers opt for alternative travel arrangements, airlines must provide a seat on their next available flight, or on a flight operated by an airline with which they have a commercial agreement, within 48 hours of the departure time initial.

“Whether [the airline is] unable to deliver the passenger to its own network within 48 hours of the original departure time, then in the case of major carriers like Air Canada, WestJet and Swoop, the law is required to purchase passenger tickets from ‘another airline,’ Lukacs told me.

If the cause of the cancellation, delay or denied boarding is beyond the control of an airline, the airline is not legally obliged to cover the cost of food or accommodation for the passengers concerned, nor to offer any financial compensation.

UNDER AIRLINE CONTROL

Lukacs said passengers have more options for compensation when flights are canceled or delayed for reasons within the airlines’ control.

In the event of a cancellation or delay of two hours or more, if passengers are notified less than 12 hours before their departure time, airlines must provide food and drink in “reasonable quantities” as well than a means of communication. Passengers who are denied boarding immediately benefit from these rights. If passengers have to wait overnight for their flight, airlines must offer a hotel or other comparable accommodation free of charge, as well as free transport to the accommodation.

Airlines must also offer alternative travel arrangements or refunds for cancellations or delays of three hours or more. If the cause of the disruption is within their control, however, they have less time – nine hours – to arrange another trip within their own network before having to rebook on another airline’s flight.

“If a flight is canceled due to a lack of crew, which is within the carrier’s control, then they must rebook you on other airlines’ flights if they cannot rebook you on their own network. within nine hours,” Lukacs explained.

Passengers notified of a cancellation or delay 14 days or less before their departure time, or who are denied boarding, are also entitled to financial compensation of up to $1,000. The amount of compensation awarded depends on circumstances such as the length of the delay and the size of the airline.

RIGHTS OF PASSENGERS LOCKED ON THE TARMAC?

Sometimes bad weather or air traffic problems ground a plane on the tarmac with everyone on board for hours before takeoff or after landing. Whether they are in the terminal or stuck on the tarmac, passengers benefit from the same rights described above in the event of delay or cancellation.

The airline must also provide passengers stranded on the tarmac with access to toilets, adequate ventilation and cooling, the means to communicate with people outside the aircraft when possible, and food and drink, “in reasonable quantities”, taking into account the duration of the trip. delay.

Once a flight has sat on a tarmac for three hours, airlines are legally required to let passengers disembark. The exception is that if takeoff is imminent, this time window can be extended for an additional 45 minutes.

Flight affected by bad weather? Here’s what you’re entitled to

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