Fly Smart

With millions of passengers around the world travelling every year, air travel has become a part of life. You need to be able to make informed decisions when you make your travel plans.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is here to ensure that our transportation system is one that is competitive, efficient and accessible. We want to help you in your travel planning by providing useful information about flying to, from and within Canada. In this publication, you will find what is important to know about the rules that apply to air passengers and Canadian and foreign carriers, travel documents, your tickets, your baggage, insurance coverage and special requests – to get you from the early stages of planning a trip, right through to the airport and back home.

Transportation matters to us. Should you encounter difficulties which you are unable to resolve yourself directly with your air carrier, we may be able to assist you in resolving your travel complaint.

Getting ready

Your rights and responsibilities

The air carrier’s tariff is the contract of carriage between you and your carrier – it covers your rights and obligations as an airline passenger and your air carrier’s rights and its responsibilities to you.

Be aware of the rules that apply to your ticket before confirming your purchase, especially on-line. Print a copy for your records, as the information might not be available at a later date.

By law, all carriers operating publicly-available air services to, from or within Canada are required to have tariffs for those services and make them available to the public at their business offices in Canada and on their Web sites when used for selling air transportation. Carriers must respect their tariffs at all times.

The tariff must not be unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory or create undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

An air carrier’s tariff:

  • Addresses general matters that apply to all passengers at all times and sets out the carrier’s terms and conditions of carriage, clearly stating its policies regarding matters such as limits to its liability for baggage mishandling, its procedures when flights are cancelled or delayed, etc.; and
  • Includes a carrier’s fares and the supporting fare rules that govern the application of a specific fare – individual fare rules address matters such as changes to your itinerary or reservation, and cancellation of your reservation and whether your ticket is refundable.

Your air fare

Air carriers offer different types of air fares which vary according to a number of market factors, including destination, distance and the time of year.

Learn about your options before making a reservation as air fare types, availability, and prices can vary greatly for each flight and fares may come with special conditions that may or may not meet your needs.

Full fares
have the fewest restrictions and give passengers the most flexibility to book, change or cancel a reservation. But they are also the most costly.
Discount fares
give passengers less flexibility, but offer lower prices and may be available only for a short period.
Seat sales
are short-term discount fares which are usually highly restricted and any changes, if permitted, can incur a change fee, cancellation penalty or fare increase.

When you shop for an air fare you should take into consideration a number of factors:

  • Confirm the currency in which the fare is quoted;
  • Verify any fees, surcharges or taxes that may be applied to the fare quoted; and
  • Determine any limitation placed on the number of bags you may carry free of charge.

Doing so will help you to make accurate comparisons of price quotes received from different sources for the same itinerary.

And remember, a price quote is only a quote – for travel within North America, the price is not guaranteed until the ticket has been paid in full and issued. However, for international travel, prices may not be guaranteed until you commence travel, even though you may have paid for your ticket in advance. Check with your air carrier to see which applies in your situation.

Advance seat selection

Many carriers provide passengers with the option of pre-selecting their seat assignment on their flight(s) prior to the date of departure – for free or for a fee. No matter how the seat assignment is obtained, carriers cannot guarantee its passengers specific seats on board an aircraft. If you are moved from your pre-selected seat, your carrier may reimburse the fee you paid for advance seat selection.

Your travel reservation

A reservation is a confirmation of the type of accommodation held by a passenger on a flight.

Once you have decided when and where you want to go and with which air carrier, you will have to purchase your ticket and check in on time to guarantee a place on board the flight. However, these measures will not prevent you from being denied boarding due to overbooking (bumped).

Some fares offered by air carriers will allow you to make a reservation and hold a space on board a flight for a specified period without payment to allow you to make a decision to travel or not. If you have not provided the air carrier with an indication of your intent to travel within the specified period, the air carrier will cancel your reservation. A carrier is not legally obligated to transport you until the ticket has been paid in full and issued.

Once your ticket is paid in full and issued, your travel agent or air carrier may provide you with an itinerary and receipt that confirms essential details about your trip, including your ticket number and some references to certain travel-related information found in the carrier’s tariff.

Travel agents are an excellent source of information – not just for seat sales, but they can also help in arranging hotel and resort accommodations, ground transportation and tour packages. They can also provide some assistance with insurance, passport and visa applications, and information on immunization and other foreign travel requirements.

In the case of charter flights: In general, when a tour operator (rather than the charter carrier) sells the seat to the public through a travel agency, regulations differ from those of regularly scheduled flights because the passenger contracts with the tour operator, not the charter carrier.

However, for services which are offered or provided by the charter carrier and that directly impact passengers – such as services for persons with disabilities, mishandled baggage, flight disruptions – the charter carrier’s tariff sets out the carrier’s policies in this regard.

Provide contact information: When making your reservation, be sure to provide your air carrier with your points of contact – e-mail address and/or telephone numbers at home and at destination – in case it needs to notify you of any delays or schedule changes before your departure or at any point during your travels.

Your ticket

A reservation is a confirmation of the type of accommodation held by a passenger on a flight.

Once you have decided when and where you want to go and with which air carrier, you will have to purchase your ticket and check in on time to guarantee a place on board the flight. However, these measures will not prevent you from being denied boarding due to overbooking (bumped).

Some fares offered by air carriers will allow you to make a reservation and hold a space on board a flight for a specified period without payment to allow you to make a decision to travel or not. If you have not provided the air carrier with an indication of your intent to travel within the specified period, the air carrier will cancel your reservation. A carrier is not legally obligated to transport you until the ticket has been paid in full and issued.

Once your ticket is paid in full and issued, your travel agent or air carrier may provide you with an itinerary and receipt that confirms essential details about your trip, including your ticket number and some references to certain travel-related information found in the carrier’s tariff.

Travel agents are an excellent source of information – not just for seat sales, but they can also help in arranging hotel and resort accommodations, ground transportation and tour packages. They can also provide some assistance with insurance, passport and visa applications, and information on immunization and other foreign travel requirements.

In the case of charter flights: In general, when a tour operator (rather than the charter carrier) sells the seat to the public through a travel agency, regulations differ from those of regularly scheduled flights because the passenger contracts with the tour operator, not the charter carrier.

However, for services which are offered or provided by the charter carrier and that directly impact passengers – such as services for persons with disabilities, mishandled baggage, flight disruptions – the charter carrier’s tariff sets out the carrier’s policies in this regard.

Provide contact information: When making your reservation, be sure to provide your air carrier with your points of contact – e-mail address and/or telephone numbers at home and at destination – in case it needs to notify you of any delays or schedule changes before your departure or at any point during your travels.

Your travel documents

You are responsible for finding out about the appropriate travel documents required for your trip: a passport or the appropriate government-issued photo identification, visa, permits, medical insurance, vaccination certificates or proof of immunization, etc. Obtain the ones necessary for your final destination and for countries which you are transiting en route, well in advance of your trip. Travel agencies and air carriers may provide such information, but it is not their responsibility to ensure that you have all the necessary documents.

The name on the travel documents shown at check-in or the boarding gate must match the name on the boarding pass. While air carriers tend to routinely check travel documents at the time of check in and at the boarding gate to ensure that you are the person named on the ticket, these checks do not protect you from the consequences of having incomplete documentation upon arrival in a foreign country.

Air carriers may refuse transportation to passengers who do not have appropriate or valid travel documents to enter a foreign country or to return to Canada.

For information on specific country entry and exit requirements, consult the Country Travel Report for your destination atwww.travel.gc.ca.

Identification for domestic flights

For a boarding pass to be issued by an air carrier, passengers on domestic flights within Canada who appear to be 18 years of age or older must present either of the following types of identification:

  • A piece of valid, government-issued identification that includes a photograph and the passenger’s name, date of birth and gender, or
  • Two pieces of valid, government-issued identification without photographs showing the passenger’s name, date of birth and gender.

For additional information and examples of acceptable types of identification, consult www.passengerprotect.gc.ca.

While there are no identification requirements for younger passengers travelling within Canada, some carriers recommend that they present some form of valid, government-issued identification for identity screening purposes. Check with your carrier for its requirements before your departure.

Your passport is a valuable document – guard it carefully. Do not pack it in your checked baggage and do not leave it in your hotel room unless it is in a locked safe.

Be sure to make extra copies of your travel documents before leaving home – carry one extra copy with you (but keep it separate from the original travel documents) and leave the other copy with someone at home in case of a problem.

Identification for international and trans-border flights

There is one general rule when you travel outside of Canada: ALWAYS carry a valid passport.

Even though some countries do not insist on the presentation of a passport, it is the only proof of your nationality and identity that is accepted in every country around the world. Your Canadian passport proves that you have a right to return to Canada. Canadian citizens returning to Canada who present other documents, such as a Certificate of Canadian Citizenship, birth certificate, provincial driver’s licence, or foreign passport instead of a Canadian passport, may face delays and your air carrier may refuse to transport you.

For information on how to apply for a Canadian passport, consult www.ppt.gc.ca.

Make sure that the expiry date of your passport is more than six months after you plan to return to Canada as some countries will not admit someone whose passport is close to expiring. As well, you might also be required to provide proof of a valid return or onward ticket and other travel documentation identified below upon your arrival.

For more information, consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at www.travel.gc.ca.

Travelling with Children: Persons under 18 years of age are considered children. All children travelling to a foreign country need their own valid, appropriate government-issued photo identification – a passport for most countries.

Customs officials and other authorities (both inside and outside Canada) look out for missing children and may ask questions about children travelling with you. When travelling with children or when a child is travelling alone, in addition to their own government-issued photo identification, they will also need a signed consent letter confirming that they have permission to travel abroad, supporting identification documents such as a birth certificate or citizenship card, other legal documents if applicable, as well as documents required by authorities of the countries they intend to visit and by Canadian authorities, to facilitate their return to Canada.

For information on the appropriate documentation required by Canadian and foreign authorities for children to travel abroad, consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at www.travel.gc.ca.

Identification for non-Canadians

Canada issues two types of Canadian travel documents to non-Canadians living in Canada: a Travel Document, for persons in Canada with protected-person status; or, a Certificate of Identity for persons landed in Canada for less than three years who are stateless or unable to obtain a national passport.

Passport Canada offers a simple guide that will walk you through the entire travel document application process. It can be found at www.ppt.gc.ca/non-cdn.

Identification for permanent resident

For more information about identification for permanent residents, consult Citizenship and Immigration Canada atwww.cic.gc.ca.

Advanced passenger information

Many countries now require air carriers to provide additional information about passengers – such as the traveller’s name, date of birth, citizenship or nationality and passport and other travel document data – before they arrive in the country. Follow the air carrier’s guidance on what will be required and when it will be required to avoid any delays at check in.

For information about the Advanced Passenger Information program in Canada, consult Canada Border Services Agency atwww.cbsa.gc.ca.

Other travel document requirements

Depending on the nationality of your passport and your status in Canada, when entering or transiting certain countries, you may require visas, entry and exit permits, or health certificates. These documents may be difficult or even impossible to obtain when you land. To avoid delays or being denied entry to a foreign country, consult a travel agent or the nearest diplomatic mission or consular office of the countries concerned well before your travel date to identify what additional travel documents will be needed and to allow enough time for processing.

For the addresses and contact information of diplomatic and consular representatives accredited to Canada, consult the Country Travel Report for your destination at www.travel.gc.ca.

Vaccinations

It is also important to determine what vaccinations, if any, you will need well ahead of your departure as you may be refused entry to a foreign country if you do not have the appropriate vaccination certificate or cannot show proof of immunization.

Be sure to verify the requirement again before you leave as health regulations can change with little notice and some vaccines take time to be effective or require multiple injections.

For specific foreign country entry requirements and a directory of Canadian embassies and consular missions in most countries around the world, consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at www.travel.gc.ca.

For further travel health information, contact your doctor, travel medical clinic, municipal/provincial/territorial department of health, or the Public Health Agency of Canada at www.phac.gc.ca.

Insurance

Travel insurance

Whether you’re intending to travel within or outside of Canada, consider purchasing travel insurance in case you need to cancel your trip before you leave or interrupt your trip while you’re travelling due to illness, the failure of your air carrier or tour operator, or other unexpected problems that may arise.

Medical insurance

Your provincial health plan has limited coverage outside of Canada. Some countries now require proof of extra medical insurance before allowing entry and will charge a daily premium for the length of your stay should you not have extended coverage.

Consider extended medical coverage when travelling to other Canadian provinces to cover the costs of services not included in the reciprocal agreements between provinces or when travelling outside of Canada in case you are hurt or become sick in a foreign country. Determine if you have sufficient coverage through your existing insurance plan or work, school, or bank plan. Find out whether the extended coverage you are considering covers any existing medical problems you may have.

For more information on countries’ entry requirements, consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at www.travel.gc.ca.

Baggage insurance

Every air carrier has limits on its liability outlined in their tariffs in regard to luggage that is delayed, damaged or lost.

What is covered and the amounts vary greatly amongst carriers so familiarize yourself with your carrier’s limits.

On international flights to or from Canada, the carrier’s liability in most cases is subject to international conventions which set a maximum amount of compensation per passenger. Compensation for baggage mishandling on domestic or international flights usually requires proof of loss.

If you find the carrier’s maximum limit of liability is too low for the value of your bag and its contents, you may consider purchasing additional baggage insurance from an insurance provider. Alternatively, when you check in for your flight, you may consider declaring a higher value for your baggage and paying a supplemental fee to the carrier in case your baggage is delayed, damaged or lost. Keep in mind that not all air carriers may permit this, so check with your air carrier before booking your flights.

Your baggage

When packing, attach an identification tag with your name, address and telephone number to the outside of each piece of checked baggage. Include a copy of the same information inside your bags, along with your contact information at destination, in the event that the external identification tag is damaged or removed and note the make and model of your bags. Remove any old bag tags and barcode stickers to reduce the chances of baggage mishandling.

Never leave your luggage unattended in an airport or carry anything onto the plane for someone else.

There is no standard rule among air carriers concerning the amount (number of pieces, size or weight) of personal baggage which can be carried on board an aircraft or checked free of charge by each passenger. Such amounts are set by each carrier in its tariff. If any of your carry-on or checked baggage exceeds the amounts specified by your carrier, you may be required to pay excess baggage charges.

Remember, in the case of code share flights, the baggage limits of the carrier that issued the ticket apply and not those of the carrier operating the flight.

Any item you consider bringing onto the aircraft, whether you carry it on board or check it, may be subject to certain conditions of carriage.

You should always carry these items with you on board:

  • Your passport, wallet, other identification and return tickets
  • Valuable, perishable or essential items
  • Medicines and medical devices such as insulin, prosthetics, glasses and contact lens kits and prescription medicine (which should be in its original container with the name of the doctor and other information clearly marked)
  • Essential overnight items in case your baggage is delayed or lost
  • Your laptop computer, electronic equipment and cameras

Carriers may restrict the inclusion of:

  • Items in checked baggage which they deem to be inappropriately packaged or unsuitable for transport – e.g. high-cost, fragile or perishable items – and may only agree to transport them if placed in carry-on baggage; or
  • Items in carry-on baggage which they deem inappropriate for carriage in the cabin of the aircraft, but acceptable if carried as checked baggage.

Security restrictions also forbid passengers from carrying certain articles on board an airplane, whether in the passenger cabin or baggage compartment.

Check with carrier for those items it will not accept as checked baggage as well as those it deems appropriate for the carriage in the cabin of the aircraft.

For current information on Canadian airport security procedures and for a complete list of permitted and non-permitted items, consult the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority at www.catsa.gc.ca.

Checked baggage

Always retain the baggage claim stub/check you receive when you check in your baggage because it may be difficult to prove a claim without it should your bags be mishandled.

And remember, a carrier’s liability for lost, delayed or damaged baggage is limited by the terms and conditions of carriage set out in its tariff. If your luggage and its contents are worth more than the carrier’s liability limit, you may want to purchase additional insurance from an insurance provider or, if permitted by the carrier at time of check in, declare a value in excess of the applicable liability limits and pay a supplemental fee to the carrier.

Special baggage

From sports equipment to musical instruments, special items must be enclosed in sturdy protective cases. Contact your carrier well in advance of your departure date to find out if it will accept to carry such items, to identify which items require special handling and to make appropriate arrangements. Passengers travelling with mobility aids should discuss arrangements for stowing and retrieving their aids with their air carrier well in advance of travel.

Duty free items

Some countries allow the use of tamper-evident bags – sealed, clear plastic bags that are specifically designed to hold duty-free liquids, aerosols and gels in excess of 100 ml (3.4 oz) – purchased by international passengers at duty-free retailers.

If you have a connecting flight from an airport that does not accept these bags or your duty free items are not transported in such bags, you will have the option of surrendering them at the screening checkpoint or transferring the items to your checked baggage. If, as a consequence, your checked baggage exceeds the air carrier’s maximum allowable weight, you may be subject to excess baggage fees.

Confirming your flight

Some air carriers require confirmation of your return flight. If this requirement exists, your return flight must be confirmed with the carrier at least 72 hours in advance of its scheduled departure. Failure to do so can result in the cancellation of your reservation. Ask your air carrier or travel agent if and when such confirmation is required.

It is always a good idea to confirm your return flight and provide your air carrier with your current contact information (e-mail address and/or telephone numbers) so that it has the means to notify you should your flight be delayed, advanced or cancelled. Regardless of your air carrier’s requirements, be sure to check your flight status at least 24 hours before the flight and then again before departing for the airport and to respect your carrier’s check in time limits.

Staying in touch

While you are away from home, make sure you monitor the points of contact you provided your carrier at time of booking for notifications of any delays, cancellations or schedule changes.

Wherever you go, be sure someone back home knows where you will be by leaving them with a copy of your travel itinerary.

Canadian residents visiting a foreign country should register beforehand with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada so they can be easily reached and assisted in the event of an emergency – natural disasters or civil unrest – abroad, or be informed about an emergency at home.

Go to www.travel.gc.ca to register on-line and find information about safe travel in foreign countries and an up-to-date list of addresses and contact numbers for Canadian government offices abroad.

Special requests

Air carriers provide services to a wide range of customers and will try to accommodate their special requests. These can range from dietary restrictions and disability-related needs, to transporting unusual baggage. Note that air carriers usually require between 48 and 72 hours notice in advance of departure to accommodate special requests.

Travellers with disabilities:

Take Charge of Your Travel: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities provides useful and detailed information for air travellers with disabilities. It is free of charge and is available on our Web site at www.cta.gc.ca or in multiple formats upon request.

Unaccompanied minors:

Some air carriers accept unaccompanied minors, generally children aged five to 11 who are travelling without a parent or guardian, and will escort them from check-in through to their arrival at the destination airport (usually for a fee).

Be sure you are aware of your air carrier’s terms for the service it provides for unaccompanied minors before booking their flights.

Travelling with pets: Air carriers have different policies regarding the carriage of pets. While some may accept pets as checked baggage or allow them to travel within the cabin with their owners, others may not. Before reserving space for your pet on your flights, ask your air carrier about its pet policy. Also contact the embassy or consulate of your destination country for specific restrictions, as well as the vaccinations and documentation required for pets entering other countries.

For the addresses and contact information of diplomatic and consular representatives accredited to Canada, consult the Country Travel Report for your destination at www.travel.gc.ca.

Travel for compassionate reasons: Some air carriers have policies about partial refunds or discounts on certain fares for travellers who must travel for compassionate reasons, such as death or imminent death of an immediate family member. Conditions vary greatly depending on the carrier. To ensure that their policy meets the needs of your particular situation, ask your travel agent or air carrier before you make your arrangements.

At the airport

Checking In

Carriers are offering more and more convenient ways for passengers to check in for their flights – including via the Internet or from mobile devices – and obtain their boarding passes.

Whichever way you choose, make sure you have enough time to check in, complete the travel document verification process, register your baggage, pass through the security screening checkpoints and arrive at the boarding gate before the carrier’s deadlines.

Check-in and boarding gate reporting deadlines vary from carrier to carrier and between domestic and international flights. If you miss any of them, the carrier may reassign your pre-reserved seat and/or cancel your reservation. In such situations, the air carrier has no obligation to put you on a later flight or to refund any portion of your unused ticket. In the case of code-share flights, it is the check-in deadlines of the carrier that issued your ticket that apply and not those of the carrier operating the flight. Contact your carrier to find out its check-in and boarding gate reporting deadlines.

During peak travel periods, get to the airport well in advance to avoid any road and security screening congestion problems.

Delays, cancellations and schedule changes

Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are approximate and are not guaranteed. Schedules are subject to change without notice and air carriers assume no responsibility for ensuring that their passengers make their connections to other flights. Flights can also be delayed or cancelled for various reasons.

While air carriers are not liable for costs incurred as a result of flight delays or cancellations which are beyond the carriers’ control, they often arrange alternate transportation to enable you to reach the next destination named on your ticket. If this is not possible, you may be entitled to a refund of the unused portion of your ticket. However, if you decide to make your own arrangements, the carrier will not be required to compensate you for any of your additional costs. Carriers are not responsible for damages such as stress, inconvenience, loss of income or loss of enjoyment as a result of a schedule irregularity.

In cases of long delays, some carriers will give vouchers for food and overnight accommodation upon request. Some major Canadian carriers have additional service commitments describing how they should treat passengers in the event that a flight is delayed, overbooked or cancelled, as well as other related passenger rights incorporated as terms and conditions of carriage in their tariffs and which are enforceable by the Agency. This includes where a lengthy delay requires an overnight stay or the flight is delayed on the tarmac. Review your carrier’s tariff for its policy regarding delays, cancellations and schedule changes.

Missed connections

When flights on your itinerary are late or have been re-scheduled, your rights depend on whether the flights are issued on the same or multiple tickets.

If they are all on the same ticket, the carrier should get you onto the next available flight. If that is not possible, the carrier will usually offer to refund the unused portion of your ticket.

If you have an itinerary based on multiple tickets, be sure at time of booking to allow sufficient time between each flight segment to deplane, retrieve your baggage, and allow for security screening and any necessary terminal changes to reach the next flight.

Check the status of your flight 24 hours before its scheduled departure and again before you leave for the airport, to confirm its departure status. Your air carrier may provide you with options to consider should your flight be delayed or cancelled.

Doing so will help to prevent you from missing a flight once you are in transit should any prior flights be delayed. A carrier is only responsible to get you to the destination named on the relevant ticket involved.

If a carrier goes out of business

If you have purchased a ticket but have not yet travelled, or you are still in transit and your air carrier ceases operations, you should contact your travel agent or other transportation providers as soon as possible to make alternate arrangements.

If you have purchased travel insurance, you should contact the insurance company to see if you are covered.

If you have an unused ticket, you may be eligible for a refund from your travel agency, your credit card company or certain provincial government authorities responsible for travel.

Under these circumstances, the Canadian Transportation Agency may be able to help you determine who to contact and will post any information related to the situation at www.cta.gc.ca.

Denied boarding due to over-booking (bumping)

Air carriers often over-book flights (confirm more seats than are available) in order to minimize the impact of last-minute cancellations.

When this happens, an air carrier must first make a request for volunteers willing to take a later flight before a passenger can be denied boarding (bumped) involuntarily. Should there not be enough volunteers, the remaining passengers will be subject to being bumped based on the boarding priorities set out in a carrier’s tariff which give consideration to the needs of persons with disabilities and unaccompanied minors.

Carriers will usually help passengers that are voluntarily or involuntarily “bumped” to find a seat on the next available flight at no additional cost. Compensation for individuals who are denied boarding depends on what is set out in a carrier’s tariff.

As passengers arriving late are usually the ones most likely to be bumped, you can minimize the chances of this happening to you by:

  • Pre-selecting your seats when making your reservation, which may require the payment of a fee;
  • Checking in on-line up to 24 hours in advance of your flight, when available; and
  • Arriving at the airport well in advance of departure to complete the check in process within the carrier’s time limits, clear the security screening checkpoint and reach the boarding gate within the carrier’s deadlines.

If you have been bumped from the flight, there may not be sufficient time to retrieve your bags, so they may leave on the plane without you. You should be able to find them when you arrive at your destination. If you arrive later than your bags, the air carrier’s baggage agent at your destination may have put them away for safekeeping. If your bags cannot be found, report it immediately to your carrier before you leave the airport and obtain tracking information.

Lost, damaged and delayed baggage

If you incur expenses as a result of the delayed delivery of your bag or believe that the carrier is liable for the damage to, or the loss of, your bag or any of its contents, you may file a written claim for compensation through your air carrier. Your claim should include an itemized list of your lost or damaged items and their individual values or the specific out-of-pocket expenses incurred to replace or repair any mishandled item.

Be aware that air carriers require proof of loss, so it is important to include your original baggage claim stubs/checks, purchase receipts and related documents to support your written claim. A carrier’s liability for lost, damaged or delayed baggage is limited by the terms and conditions of carriage in its tariff.

Carriers also set specific time limits for making claims about mishandled baggage – they can be found in the carrier’s tariff.

If you discover that your baggage did not arrive with you or it is damaged, be sure to report it immediately to your carrier and obtain tracking information, ideally before you leave the airport since there are specific time limits for reporting mishandled baggage.

Airport security

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is responsible for screening air passengers and their belongings at Canadian airports as part of the pre-boarding process.

At the security screening checkpoint, you and your carry-on baggage will be searched by hand, with a metal detector or by x-ray machine. Passengers may also be selected at random for additional screening procedures, such as a full body scan or a physical search.

If you refuse to participate, you will not be allowed to board the aircraft and in some countries including the U.S., you could also be subject to arrest. Should you refuse to pass through or be refused through the screening process, your air carrier is not liable for refunding any unused part of your ticket.

CATSA personnel are trained on how to address the needs of persons with disabilities as they pertain to security screening. Make them aware of your disability-related needs and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance with mobility aids and carry-on items as you proceed through the security screening checkpoint.

Also remember:

  • You will not be able to pass through security unless you have a valid boarding pass;
  • There are often long line ups at security and air carriers will not delay departures for passengers who arrive late at the boarding gate; and
  • You must have valid identification and other travel documentation for yourself and any children travelling with you to show at the check-in counter and again at the boarding gate.

NEXUS and CANPASS Air

For Canadian and U.S. citizens who want to avoid line-ups and save time, a NEXUS membership card may be used at a designated kiosk in airports and at all designated air, land and marine ports of entry as an alternative to a passport when entering Canada and the U.S.

A CANPASS Air membership allows Canadian and U.S. citizens to use designated kiosks equipped with a digital iris recognition camera in designated airports to clear the border faster when arriving in Canada from any country in the world.

Consult the Canada Border Services Agency at www.cbsa.gc.ca for more information.

Getting ready

Safety onboard

Air safety regulations require passengers to follow all safety-related directions given by any crew member of the flight. Standard briefings will be provided before and after take-off or when the seat belt sign is turned on. A safety features card will be located in the seat pocket in front of you and braille versions should be available upon request. A crew member is also required to give a personal safety briefing before take-off for passengers with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities.

Remember:

  • Passengers seated beside an emergency exit must be able to assist the cabin crew during an evacuation; and
  • It is strongly recommended that you ask your carrier well in advance about approved child restraint devices when travelling with infants less than two years old.

Unruly passengers

Everyone has the right to safe and secure travel. Behaviour that interferes with the flight or puts the safety of passengers and crew at risk is not tolerated.

Certain conduct and behaviour is considered illegal in Canada. If any prohibitive conduct or behaviour occurs before the flight, the carrier can refuse to transport the passenger. If it occurs during flight, the aircraft may make an unscheduled landing and the unruly passenger may be arrested, charged, and/or prosecuted.

For more details, visit Transport Canada at www.tc.gc.ca.

If you are refused transportation or removed from a flight as a result of inappropriate conduct or behaviour, you may be entitled to a refund of the unused portion of your ticket. Check with your air carrier.

Customs declarations

Every nation has its own rules about what can be brought into their country and its own customs and security procedures for foreigners arriving there. Some countries have a “lottery” system for choosing passengers for random luggage inspections.

Many – including Canada – require completion of a customs declaration form distributed during your flight. Consult the customs and immigration departments of your destination country for more details.

Information for Canadian residents returning to Canada can be found at www.cbsa.gc.ca.

Items lost in transit

Articles lost at an airport, on ground transportation vehicles, at airport lounges or left on an aircraft after landing are not usually the carrier’s responsibility. However, air carriers and airports operate lost and found departments and you should check with them for your lost items.

Coming back to Canada

Most countries restrict what you are allowed to take back with you, including currency. Some countries require that you pay a local departure tax at the airport before boarding your flight. Generally, only a cash payment in the exact amount and in the country’s currency is accepted. It is best to be aware of these restrictions ahead of time.

For more information, consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada at www.travel.gc.ca.

You must also declare all food, plants, animals and related products as these items can carry disease or unwanted insects. Import requirements are subject to change on a daily basis.


To determine the most up-to-date rules for these items, refer to the Canada Food Inspection Agency at www.inspection.gc.ca.and related products as these items can carry disease or unwanted insects. Import requirements are subject 


Residents of Canada returning to Canada as well as visitors to Canada will need to present their passport or other travel documents to authorities to satisfy that they meet the requirements for admission or return to Canada. Certain goods brought into Canada are subject to duties and taxes.to change on a daily basis.

For more information, consult Canada Border Services Agency at www.cbsa.gc.ca.

Need help?

Need help with a problem?

The majority of air travellers have problem-free flights.

If difficulties do arise, you should first contact your carrier in writing as the vast majority of complaints can be resolved at this initial level. Stick to the facts when writing to your air carrier, identify the resolution you are seeking and include copies of your ticket(s) and/or other supporting documents. Keep a copy of the letter for your records and, if sending by mail, do so through registered mail to retain proof of delivery.

For more information and the contact details of most major Canadian, U.S. and foreign carriers, visit www.cta.gc.ca. If you have not received a satisfactory response after thirty days, then you may bring your complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

To submit a complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency, forms are available on-line at www.cta.gc.ca or you can request them by contacting 1-888-222-2592.

In the case of packaged holidays, the Agency’s jurisdiction is limited to the air portion of the travel package. Complaints about the land portion or services offered by a tour operator should be addressed to your provincial/territorial office dealing with consumer matters, including travel.

Complaints

The Agency can resolve complaints regarding matters such as:

  • Baggage
  • Flight disruptions
  • Tickets
  • Reservations
  • Denied boarding
  • Refusal to transport
  • Passenger fares and charges
  • Cargo
  • Carrier-operated loyalty programs (excluding Aeroplan and Air Miles)

For more details on what the Agency can and cannot handle, go to www.cta.gc.ca.

A complete list of provincial/territorial authorities can be found at www.cta.gc.ca.

The Agency does not have the jurisdiction to deal with complaints about the quality or level of customer service provided by an air carrier. Such matters, including, but not limited to, the quality of meals and refreshments, the attentiveness or attitude of the air carrier’s staff, or the carrier’s lack of communication with its passengers, fall strictly within the purview of the airline’s management and should be brought directly to its attention.

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.

The Agency’s complaint process

Your rights and obligations as an airline passenger and your air carrier’s rights and its responsibilities to you are found in the air carrier’s tariff – the contract of carriage between you and the carrier.

Carriers must include their fares, rates, charges and terms and conditions of carriage in their tariffs. By law, all Canadian and foreign carriers operating publicly-available air services to, from or within Canada are required to have tariffs for those services and respect them at all times. Part of the Agency’s responsibilities is to ensure that they do.

For complaints that a carrier has not applied its fares, rates, charges or terms and conditions of carriage set out in its tariff, Agency staff will review and initially attempt to resolve your complaint through the Agency’s informal facilitation process. They will analyze your complaint, the documentation submitted to explain or in support of your complaint and the carrier’s tariff.

If it appears the carrier has not respected its tariff, Agency staff will facilitate an informal discussion with both parties to attempt to obtain a voluntary settlement that is consistent with the carrier’s tariff. The settlement cannot include compensation for things such as pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment or loss of income. Note, however, that a settlement cannot be imposed on either party through the Agency’s informal facilitation process.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the Agency’s informal process and believe the carrier did not respect its tariff, you have the option to pursue your complaint through a formal adjudicative process whereby your arguments and those of your air carrier will be made in writing. The decision rendered by the Agency will be binding on both parties.

If the Agency decides in your favour, it may order the carrier to apply its fares, rates, charges or terms and conditions of carriage, compensate you for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a direct result of its actions or take other appropriate corrective measures. However, the Agency cannot examine or order damages for things such as pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment or loss of income. If you believe that you are entitled to such damages, you may wish to consult your own legal advisor.

Should you believe that the fares, rates, charges or terms and conditions of carriage set out in a carrier’s tariff are unclear, unjust, unreasonable or unduly discriminatory, you may also file a complaint through the Agency’s formal adjudicative process.

While the Agency does not have the authority to order compensation in such cases, it can order the air carrier to amend its tariff.

For more information regarding the Agency’s processes for resolving air travel complaints go to www.cta.gc.ca.

Complaints by travellers with disabilities

The fares, rates, charges and terms and conditions of carriage set out in a carrier’s tariff cannot create undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities.

Under the Canada Transportation Act, the Agency may investigate complaints filed by or on behalf of persons with disabilities to determine whether undue obstacles exist in the transportation network. The Agency may order corrective measures if it finds that an undue obstacle exists. If you cannot resolve a complaint with your carrier, go to www.cta.gc.ca for information about filing a disability-related complaint.

Specific inquiries

Passport Canada

  • Obtaining and renewing passports
  • Identification for Non-Canadian(s) 
    www.ppt.gc.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada

Foreign Affairs & International Trade Canada

  • Travelling abroad
  • Registering your trip
  • Country travel reports and warnings,
  • Travelling with children and/or with pets 
    www.travel.gc.ca

Passenger Protect Program

Canadian Air Transport Security Authority

  • Airport screening and security issues
  • List of permitted and non-permitted items 
    www.catsa.gc.ca

Canada Border Services Agency

  • Customs declarations
  • Advanced Passenger Protect program
  • Nexus and CANPASS Air programs 
    www.cbsa.gc.ca

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Transport Canada