Modernizing air transportation: Tariffs, complaints and the definition of Canadian

  • October 25, 2017

It’s probably never a bad thing when a government decides to modernize its laws and regulations. The Canadian Transportation Agency announced last year its intent to do just that – bring regulations that haven’t changed in 25 years or more in line with the current reality.

To that end, last December the CTA released its Discussion Paper on Regulatory Modernization for Air Transportation. The Air and Space Law Section has made its comments on Phase II of the paper, focusing on modernizing the Air Transportation Regulations with a view to streamlining existing tariff and application requirements, and enhancing the certainty of legal obligations imposed on carriers.

The Section makes a total of 16 recommendations, a number of which deal with passenger complaint mechanisms, a hot topic these days for airlines and passengers.

“The CTA’s current dispute resolution mechanism is unduly cumbersome and inefficient,” the Section states. The number of complaints is growing – there were 3367 new air travel complaints filed in 2016-17, nearly as many as in the previous five years combined and a 300 per cent increase from 2015-2016 – at least in part because the CTA is increasing public awareness of its services. And there are no fees or costs to deter frivolous, ineligible or vexatious complainants.

Among its recommendations, the Section says there should be a single document, code or official website listing airline consumer rights when it comes to air travel in Canada, and airlines should be required to implement a formal complaints system that is clear and transparent.

It also recommends a number of mechanisms to reduce the number of frivolous or vexatious complaints, including a vetting process, a fee structure and a mechanism for identifying repeat complainants.

Other recommendations include:

  • Eliminating the tariff filing regime and replacing it with a notification regime, or simplifying the tariff model
  • Eliminating the requirement to file fares, tolls, rates and charges if the filing requirement for tariffs is maintained
  • Requiring a short-form version of tariffs setting out essentials for passengers
  • Requiring online access to tariffs for all air carrier operations instead of requiring tariffs to be kept at each station
  • Eliminating duplicate and redundant insurance verifications
  • Creating a mechanism through which government bodies can seek and rely on the expertise of the CTA in applying the “Canadian” test for ownership

As well, the Section notes that in its view public airports should fall within the mandate of the CTA.

“A recent case where the operator of one of Canada’s largest airports unilaterally commenced runway rehabilitation projects, reducing access to the airfield, clearly illustrated the need for a regulatory body to oversee these types of decisions.” The Section recommends creating a mechanism through which a person or air carrier can seek redress for determinations made by Canadian airports that have adverse impacts.

Finally the Section suggests that, given the complexity of some of the issues raised in its submission, “we recommend that the CTA establish an industry working group for ongoing feedback on these systems and processes.”