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My flight has been delayed, what should I do?

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The Air Passenger Protection Regulation (“APPR”) covers flight delays and cancellations in Canada and/or with Canadian airlines. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you need to know what kind of compensation you are entitled to claim. Use this handy guide to help!


Were you notified of the delay less than 14 days before the scheduled departure time? If so, then this guide will apply to you!


Why was your flight disrupted?


Why was your flight cancelled or delayed? The first step is to determine what caused the flight delay. You should ask the flight attendant or customer service agents. They are required to give you an answer that is in “sufficient detail for passengers to understand the reason given and how this reason caused the flight disruptions.” [1]


For further information you may wish to consult the Canadian Transportation Agency Guide: Types and Categories of Flight Disruptions. This guide will help you to determine whether the reason for disruption was within the airlines control.


Was this disruption within the airline’s control?


If the disruption was within the airline’s control, you may be entitled to compensation. The length of the delay between your original and new arrival time determines your compensation.


What compensation might you be entitled to and how is it calculated?


There are four types of compensation that you may be entitled to

  1. Food & Drink;

  2. Accommodation;

  3. Monetary compensation; and

  4. Access to a means of communication.

Section 19 of the APPR outlines what compensation you may be entitled to, based on the delay in your arrival time. Note this is based on your arrival time not on your departure time!


Large Airline (Ex: WestJet, Air Canada, British Airways, etc…)

Length of Delay

Food, Drink and a Means of Communication?

Compensation Entitlement

0-2 Hours

NO

$0.00

2-3 Hours

YES

$0.00

3-6 Hours

YES

$400.00

6-9 Hours

YES

$700.00

9+ Hours

YES

$1,000.00


Small Airline (Ex: First Air, Harbour Air, etc…)

Length of Delay

Food, Drink and a Means of Communication?

Compensation Entitlement

0-2 Hours

NO

$0.00

2-3 Hours

YES

$0.00

3-6 Hours

YES

$125.00

6-9 Hours

YES

$250.00

9+ Hours

YES

$500.00


Food and Drink


The APPR outlines that the airline must, after 2 hours of delay, provide passengers with food and drink in reasonable quantities.


Access to a means of communication


Also, after a minimum of 2-hour delay, the airline must provide passengers with access to a means of communication. This may mean requesting internet access from the airline, or reimbursement for long distance calls.


Accommodation


If you are delayed overnight, the airline must provide reasonable accommodation and transportation to that accommodation. Reasonability is based on many factors, including the time of day and the location of the airport. For example, if the airport you are at is not near accommodation, the airline will be liable for increased transportation costs.


The airline is responsible for providing the accommodations, not reimbursement. If the airline cannot or will not provide you with accommodation, book your own accommodation. Keep all of your receipts including taxis, hotel, and other associated expenses, as you will need to include these when making a claim to the airline for reimbursement.


Refund or Alternate Travel Arrangements


If the delay is 3 hours or more and not within the airline’s control, the airline must provide passengers a confirmed booking on the next available flight operated by the same airline, or a partner airline, that departs within 48 hours of the passenger’s original departure time. If the airline is unable to provide a confirmed booking that departs within 48 hours, the passenger is entitled to choose between the following 2 options:

  1. A refund for any unused portion of the ticket, or

  2. In case of a large airline, a confirmed booking on any airline to the passenger’s destination.

An “unused portion” of a ticket would also apply to refunds on round trip bookings, as well as connecting flights, where the passenger has already completed part of their travel. If a passenger chooses the refund option on a connecting flight, the airline must provide the refund as well as a confirmed booking to the origin destination.


What if the disruption was within the airline’s control, but the disruption was for safety reasons?


If the disruption was within the airline’s control, but for safety reasons - such as maintenance or damage noted during a preflight inspection you may still be entitled to compensation. However, it would be calculated on a different basis:


Food and Drink


After 2 hours of delay, the airline must provide food and drink in reasonable quantities.


Accommodation


If you are delayed overnight, the airline must provide reasonable accommodation and transportation to that accommodation. Reasonability is based on many factors, including the time of day and the location of the airport. For example, if the airport you are at is not near accommodation, the airline will be liable for increased transportation costs.


The airline is responsible for providing the accommodations, not reimbursement. If the airline cannot or will not provide you with accommodation, book your own accommodation. Keep all of your receipts including taxis, hotel, and other associated expenses, as you will need to include these when making a claim to the airline for reimbursement.


Refund or Alternate Travel Arrangements


If the delay is 3 hours or more and not within the airline’s control, the airline must provide passengers a confirmed booking on the next available flight operated by the same airline, or a partner airline, that departs within 48 hours of the passenger’s original departure time. If the airline is unable to provide a confirmed booking that departs within 48 hours, the passenger is entitled to choose between the following 2 options:

  1. A refund for any unused portion of the ticket, or

  2. In case of a large airline, a confirmed booking on any airline to the passenger’s destination.

An “unused portion” of a ticket would also apply to refunds on round trip bookings, as well as connecting flights, where the passenger has already completed part of their travel. If a passenger chooses the refund option on a connecting flight, the airline must provide the refund as well as a confirmed booking to the origin destination.


What if the disruption is NOT within the airline’s control?


If the cause of the delay is not within the airlines control, passengers’ rights are greatly reduced, although the airline still has some obligations. Please note that the airline is not required to provide food, drink, or accommodations in addition to the option chosen below.


Refund or Alternate Travel Arrangements


If the delay is 3 hours or more and not within the airline’s control, the airline must provide passengers a confirmed booking on the next available flight operated by the same airline, or a partner airline, that departs within 48 hours of the passenger’s original departure time. If the airline is unable to provide a confirmed booking that departs within 48 hours, the passenger is entitled to choose between the following 2 options:

  1. A refund for any unused portion of the ticket, or

  2. In case of a large airline, a confirmed booking on any airline to the passenger’s destination.

An “unused portion” of a ticket would also apply to refunds on round trip bookings, as well as connecting flights, where the passenger has already completed part of their travel. If a passenger chooses the refund option on a connecting flight, the airline must provide the refund as well as a confirmed booking to the origin destination.


In some situations, the reason or reasons for the disruption may be complex, and the airline is not required to give you technical reasoning. If the airline cannot give you an answer, ensure you immediately file a complaint and request for compensation. The airline should provide more information in response to your request; which, the Canadian Transportation Agency has stated must be provided within 30 days.


Some examples of situations outside of the airline’s control include but are not limited to:

  • Weather;

  • Medical emergencies;

  • Collisions with wildlife;

  • Airport operations issues; and

  • Labour disruptions with the airline, or an essential service provider of the airline.

If you have recently encountered a long delay or flight cancellation, please contact Ryan Morstad at Rmorstad@gfslaw.ca for a 30-minute free consultation to see what compensation you may be entitled to receive.



[1] Decision No. 122-C-A-2021 Canadian Transportation Agency, Para 47