Canadian Transportation Agency Symbol of the Government of Canada

Air Travel Complaints

Objective

The Canadian Transportation Agency provides an informal process that attempts to resolve travellers' complaints about air carriers in a manner consistent with the carriers' tariffs, the Canada Transportation Act and related regulations and, where applicable, international conventions (the carrier's legal obligations).

Try to Resolve Your Complaint With the Carrier First

Before asking the Canadian Transportation Agency to investigate your complaint, you should first attempt to resolve the problem you have experienced by dealing directly with your carrier. Many travellers have found this route to be a quick and satisfactory way of resolving their complaints.

Here is a list of the largest Major Air Carriers - Customer Service Departments.

If it appears that a carrier has not had the opportunity to respond to a written complaint, the Agency's role will be limited to forwarding a copy of the complaint to the carrier who will be asked to respond directly to the complainant.

Types of Issues

The Agency does not deal with complaints about customer service issues such as the quality of meals or the attitude of airline staff. These fall solely within the purview of airline management.

Examples of complaint issues that the Agency can and cannot deal with

Unresolved Complaints

If an air traveller has attempted to resolve a complaint with an air carrier and is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she may turn to the Canadian Transportation Agency's Informal Air Travel Complaints Process.

Complaints are evaluated against the carrier's legal obligations and, where it appears that these may not have been respected, complaints staff will approach the carrier, and will informally attempt to obtain a resolution of the complaint that is consistent with these obligations.

If it appears that there are no grounds for pursuing a complaint, the complaint file will be closed and the complainant will be advised of this fact in writing.

What if I don't have all the information from my flight?

While it would be helpful to have as much information as possible concerning your air travel arrangements, this does not prevent you from filing your complaint. However, you may encounter delays in the processing of your complaint. In some cases, it may be impossible to resolve a complaint without sufficient relevant information.

Correspondence exchanged with the carrier, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, claim forms, itinerary, boarding passes, publication/baggage claim check, property irregularity reports, travel vouchers and any other pertinent information to your complaint should be photocopied and provided to the Complaint Investigations Division when requested. Do not send original documents unless specifically requested to do so.

Is there a time limit to file a complaint?

Your complaint should be submitted as soon as possible after the incident has occurred. If the provisions of an international convention apply to your complaint – such as when seeking compensation for mishandled baggage on international flights to or from Canada – there may be a two-year time limit for bringing a complaint against the air carrier.

Do I need a lawyer?

You do not need to hire a lawyer in order to file or participate in the informal resolution of an air travel complaint with the Agency. Of course, you may consult a lawyer if you wish.

Are there any fees/costs to process my complaint?

There is no fee to file an air travel complaint with the Agency for resolution through its informal process.

The Investigation Process

Upon receipt, complaints are examined to determine if they fall within the jurisdiction of the Agency.

The Agency receives a number of air travel related complaints every year. Therefore we may not be able to begin an investigation of your complaint right away. However, once you have filed your complaint with us, your legal rights before the Agency are fully protected.

Once your file is activated, you will be contacted by one of the Agency's Complaints Investigators who will give you their name and contact information.

The Complaints Investigator may ask you questions designed to better understand the nature of your complaint. Some time may have passed since the incident, therefore, we strongly encourage you to make notes of what you remember about it so that you can consult them as needed.

Once we have a good understanding of your complaint, the Complaints Investigator will assess whether your air carrier appears to have lived up to its legal obligations and, if warranted, will try to facilitate a settlement with the carrier.

Note: Either party to the complaint may make a substantiated claim for confidentiality of certain documents or parts thereof. If such a claim is accepted, the material will not be made available to the other party.

Completing the investigation

Our investigation will be terminated at any time that we believe the air carrier has settled your complaint in a manner consistent with its legal obligations or when our efforts to resolve your complaint with your carrier by way of the informal process have been unsuccessful.

In either case, you will be advised in writing and be given an explanation of our conclusion. If applicable, you will be told of any actions required on your part in order to obtain whatever settlement may have been offered.

Case Status

The status of your case can be checked at any time by clicking on: Case Status: Enquiries.

What if you are still not satisfied?

The Agency's mandate is to ensure that air carriers respect their legal obligations and their published tariffs and that these tariffs are clear, reasonable and not unduly discriminatory. If you believe that the air carrier has not respected its legal obligations, or if you believe that the carrier's tariff is not clear, is unreasonable or is unduly discriminatory, you may be able to turn to the Agency's formal process for complaint resolution.

Please note that the Agency can only deal with certain types of complaints. For instance, the Agency cannot assess damage for such things as lost income, pain and suffering, mental anguish or loss of enjoyment. If you believe that you are entitled to such damages, you may wish to consult a lawyer.

Next (The Formal Process for Complaint Resolution)