Interline baggage rules for Canada: questions and answers
Q. What is the Agency’s new approach to baggage rules?
As per the new approach, for international itineraries involving multiple air carriers, to and from Canada, purchased on a single ticket issued on or after April 1, 2015, carriers should:
- apply a single set of baggage rules to the entire itinerary; and
- disclose the applicable rules on the itinerary receipt or e-ticket.
Q. Why did the Agency develop a new approach?
For several decades, carriers’ baggage allowances were either assessed on a piece or weight basis. However, in recent years, air carriers’ approaches to applying baggage rules changed and they began to apply their own rules to their own flight segments for trips involving multiple air carriers. This resulted in uneven practices internationally and created confusion for passengers.
Following extensive consultations with air travellers, carriers and ticket sellers, the Agency determined that a consistent approach to these issues was necessary. The Agency's new approach provides clarity and predictability across the board for interline and code share itineraries to and from Canada.
Q. How did the Agency come to this conclusion?
The Agency’s approach is based on a seamless and transparent baggage regime for passengers. It also avoids imposing unique requirements that conflict with other jurisdictions, particularly within the North American context. By considering operational challenges it also reduces unnecessary burdens for the airline industry.
Throughout the process the Agency consulted with industry and the public on the best approach to interline baggage rules. The Agency held an industry workshop as well as an on-line public consultation. The consultations revealed a significant consensus that the Agency should not develop a new approach but rather align with an existing one. In addition, support was expressed for a harmonized North American approach.
Q. Who does the approach apply to?
Carriers who participate in interline and code share itineraries which involve multiple carriers offering various flights, sold on a single ticket, when travelling to and from Canada should apply the new approach.
Q. As a result of the new approach, will consumers know the baggage rules applicable to their itineraries?
Yes. For tickets purchased on or after April 1, 2015, the approach will call for:
- one single set of baggage rules being applied to the entire itinerary; and,
- the disclosure of the applicable rules on the itinerary receipt or e-ticket.
In the meantime, passengers may encounter different and changing baggage rules throughout their itinerary. Travellers are encouraged to consult their carrier and/or ticket sellers for any information about applicable baggage rules.
Q. What if a ticket is purchased before April 1, 2015 for travel after the purchase date?
Then the Interline Baggage Rules for Canada would not apply.
Given that a passenger can purchase a ticket up to 330 days before travel, for example, if a passenger bought an interline ticket on March 31, 2015, in theory, they could travel on the old rules up and until February 24, 2016.
Q. What exactly should carriers and ticket sellers acting on their behalf disclose on passengers' itinerary receipts and e-tickets?
For baggage rules provisions related to a passenger’s 1st and 2nd checked bag and the passenger’s carry-on baggage, carriers and ticket sellers should disclose the following:
- the name of the carrier whose baggage rules apply;
- the passenger’s free baggage allowance and/or applicable fees
- the size and weight limits of the baggage, if applicable;
- the terms or conditions that would alter or impact a passenger’s standard baggage allowances and charges (e.g. frequent flyer status, early check-in, pre-purchasing baggage allowances with a particular credit card);
- the existence of any embargoes or restrictions that may be applicable to the passenger’s itinerary; and,
- the application of baggage allowances and charges (i.e., whether they are applied once per direction or if they are applicable at each stopover point).
Q. Where can all of the details about air carriers' baggage rules be found?
Carriers should disclose a complete and a comprehensive summary of all of their baggage rules on their websites.
Baggage rule information provided on carriers’ websites should be clear and specific to ensure that consumers who are seeking details about any aspect of a carrier’s baggage rules can readily obtain and understand the information provided.
Travellers may also find a carrier's baggage rules set out in the carrier's tariff. Carriers' tariffs can be inspected at a carrier's business office(s) in Canada or on its website if it sells transportation to or from Canada from that site.
Q. Will the Interline Baggage Rules for Canada result in reduced baggage fees for air travellers?
The intent of the Agency's new approach is to ensure greater transparency and reduce confusion for consumers by ensuring that they are subject to a single set of baggage rules for the entire itinerary if it is issued on a single ticket and is applicable to transportation to or from Canada. As long as carriers respect this principle, it has no bearing on the way carriers operate their business and fix their baggage allowances and fees.
Q. Does the Interline Baggage Rules for Canada also apply to carry-on baggage?
Yes. However, the Agency's approach recognizes that due to the variety of aircraft sizes and types that may be used throughout an itinerary, applying a single set of baggage allowances for carry-on baggage may not be practical.
Nonetheless, it is possible for carriers to apply consistent charges for carry-on baggage, even if they cannot apply consistent baggage allowances. For example, once a carrier’s baggage rules have been selected to apply to the passenger’s entire itinerary, that carrier’s baggage charges should not differ from flight to flight. Also, the passenger should not be charged an additional sum if the passenger’s carry-on was within the allowable size and weight limits, but could not be accommodated in-cabin and must be checked instead.
Q. Do these rules also apply to embargoes or special items?
Yes. The Agency's approach provides for a means for carriers to account for embargoes and special items when establishing the baggage rules applicable to a passenger's interline itinerary.
There may be circumstances which prevent the transport of baggage that require an above normal degree of care due to specific types of equipment that may not be universally available to all carriers on an itinerary. Also, due to the time of year or particular weather conditions, a carrier may be prevented from carrying certain types of baggage, e.g. pets, surf boards, oversized or overweight carry-on baggage, etc.
Any carrier participating in the itinerary may apply baggage restrictions to the passenger’s travel as long as they are reflected in that carrier’s own baggage rules. These restrictions would then be taken into account when the passenger’s baggage rules are established by the ticketing carrier at the time of purchase and the information would be disclosed on the passenger’s e-ticket.
Q. Should carriers apply the Interline Baggage Rules for Canada to their domestic tariffs as well?
The Agency can only enforce these rules for domestic travel upon complaint.
However, for consistency, Canadian carriers who sell or participate in interline arrangements that take place wholly within Canada, are expected to apply this approach to domestic interline itineraries. The Agency is of the view that applying this approach to domestic interline itineraries would be beneficial to consumers.
Q. As carriers should now apply a single set of baggage rules to interline and code share transportation, how will passengers know what the applicable baggage allowance and fees will be for their itineraries?
The applicable carrier's baggage rules (allowances and fees for the 1st and 2nd checked bags and carry-on baggage) should be disclosed on the passenger's ticket and a comprehensive summary of all the carrier's baggage rules should be available on the carrier's website.
Q. What is the Agency’s mandate relating to air carriers' baggage rules?
As the Canadian economic regulator of the air transport industry, pursuant to the Air Transportation Regulations (ATR), the Agency is responsible for determining whether the international tariffs of air carriers are clear, just and reasonable, and whether traffic is subject to undue or unreasonable disadvantage or prejudice. This includes baggage rules which are set out in air carriers’ tariffs.
The Agency can cancel, suspend or substitute an international tariff or portion of it upon complaint or on its own initiative. The Agency can also direct an air carrier offering an international service to take corrective measures and pay compensation to the passenger if the air carrier fails to apply its tariff.
Q. Will it be mandatory for carriers to apply this new approach?
Carriers offering transportation to and from Canada should apply the Interline Baggage Rules for Canada to tickets issued on or after April 1, 2015.
Q. Why was the implementation date extended to April 1, 2015?
As various industry stakeholders filed submissions related to the implementation date and in order to provide air carriers sufficient time to make the significant changes required to their systems, the Agency issued Order No. 2014-A-158 which extends the implementation date.
The Agency noted that industry stakeholders could not accurately assess and determine the scope and magnitude of the system changes required to reflect the Agency’s interline baggage rules approach before its decision was issued on April 16, 2014.
Q. Why is the Agency giving carriers so much time to comply?
The Agency determined that implementation timelines needed to account for industry changes to meet the new requirements. The process requires many steps that involve diverse parties, including making the necessary changes to their ticketing systems and infrastructure and terms and conditions of carriage.
Q. How is the Agency ensuring that industry meets the requirements of its new approach to baggage rules?
To ensure understanding and compliance with the Interline Baggage for Canada, the Agency conducted targeted consultations with the industry on its Interpretation Note which serves as a resource tool for industry on the implementation of the new approach.
Agency staff will work with industry to foster understanding of the Agency’s findings to ensure compliance by April 1, 2015.