Inquiry into complaints regarding reasons for flight delays or cancellations

Background

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has opened an inquiry into complaints from air passengers alleging that airlines were not accurately communicating the reasons for flight delays or cancellations.

The inquiry focuses on 567 complaints involving flights operated by Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, Air Transat, Swoop and United Airlines.

Looking into these allegations through a single process is the most efficient way of dealing with the issues they raise – and ensuring that the requirements of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations are clear for both passengers and airlines.

The CTA's Chief Compliance Officer was appointed as an Inquiry Officer for this process. In this role, he collected and analyzed evidence on the delays and cancellations that are the subject of the complaints. His report was provided to the Panel assigned to adjudicate this case and has now been made public.

Now that the fact-gathering stage is complete, the CTA is continuing to the next stage of the proceeding - adjudication.

The CTA has opened pleadings on various questions of interpretation with respect to the APPR. Interested parties are invited to file position statements with respect to these questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Where can I find the Inquiry Officer's report?

The Inquiry Officer's report is now available on our website.

Q2. What are the main findings of the report?

The Inquiry Officer found that there were multiple communication issues leading to passenger frustration, although he found no evidence that the airlines deliberately mischaracterized the reasons for delays and cancellations.

The report also highlights issues related to how the airlines categorized flight disruptions as within their control, within their control but required for safety, or outside their control. How flight delays and cancellations are categorized is critical, because it affects passenger entitlements, including the right to compensation for inconvenience.

Q3. What are the next steps in the proceeding?

Now that the Inquiry Officer's report has been submitted, the CTA has opened pleadings, and invited interested persons to file position statements, on the questions of interpretation identified in the report

These questions relate to matters such as how much detail airlines should give passengers on the reasons for flight disruptions and as the proper categorization of different situations – including the definition of "scheduled maintenance" and the impact of disruptions to earlier flights on later flights, known as "knock on effects".

Once this stage of the proceeding is complete, the CTA will set out a process for considering the merits of the 567 complaints.

Q4. How can I comment on the interpretive questions on the APPR?

Interested persons who are themselves carriers or organizations representing carriers and who are not parties to the proceeding will have until 5:00 p.m. Gatineau local time on February 12, 2021, to file a position statement with respect to the general questions of interpretation pursuant to section 23 of the Rules. All other interested persons who are not parties to the proceeding will have until 5:00 p.m. Gatineau local time on March 12, 2021, to file a position statement.

All correspondence and submissions should refer to Decision No. LET-C-A-85-2020 and be filed through the CTA’s Secretariat e-mail address: secretariat@otc-cta.gc.ca.

Q5. Why did the CTA open this inquiry?

The CTA received 3,037 complaints regarding flights operated between December 15, 2019 – the date on which the full APPR came into force – and February 13, 2020 – the date on which the CTA opened its inquiry – alleging that airlines failed to accurately communicate the reasons for delays or cancellations.

The inquiry focuses on 567 complaints involving flights operated by Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, Air Transat, Swoop and United Airlines.

Looking into these allegations through a single process is the most efficient way to deal with the issues they raise, and to ensure that the requirements of the regulations are clear for both passengers and airlines.

Q6. How will I know if my complaint was included as part of this inquiry?

Should your complaint be part of this inquiry, you would have received an email from the CTA indicating that your complaint has been joined to the proceeding.

Q7. I filed a complaint with the CTA on this matter, but I have not been contacted. Why was my complaint not part of this inquiry?

The CTA conducted a review of all complaints filed between December 15, 2019, and February 13, 2020, alleging that air carriers failed to accurately communicate the reasons for flight delays or cancellations that occurred on or after December 15, 2019, as required by the APPR. This review revealed that the CTA received 3,037 such complaints during this period.

The CTA concluded that this is too large a number of complaints to be examined in a single proceeding, with the CTA’s existing resources. As a result, 567 complaints were selected based on criteria such as the issues raised and the number of complaints per airline.

All complaints received by the CTA will continue to be resolved as efficiently as possible.

Q8. Why is some information not available in the public record?

The CTA is required to make any submissions or documents filed during an adjudication available on the public record, unless a request for confidentiality has been made to and accepted by the CTA.

Following confidentiality requests from Swoop and WestJet, the CTA found that some of the information subject to those requests was not relevant so it was not placed on the record.

Q9. Is the CTA still accepting complaints that raise issues related to this inquiry?

Yes. The CTA will continue to accept complaints, including those that raise issues related to the inquiry.

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