The backlog of air passenger complaints at Canada’s transport regulator has hit a new high of more than 57,000, as dissatisfaction over cancellation and compensation persist three and a half years after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The numbers reveal that an average of more than 3,000 complaints per month have piled up at the Canadian Transportation Agency over the past year, with the current tally well over three times the total from September 2022.
Vancouver residents Chad Kerychuk and Melissa Oei say they are mulling a complaint after they arrived in Halifax six hours later than planned on a flight from Vancouver in August 2021 and found themselves separated despite paying for pricier tickets to select their spots in advance.
The couple says WestJet has rejected their request for a partial refund, and the airline informed them the disruption was caused by unplanned maintenance — an exclusion from compensation rules that will soon be unavailable to carriers.
In June, the government passed legislation to overhaul Canada’s passenger rights charter, laying out measures to toughen penalties and tighten loopholes around traveller compensation as well as streamline the complaints process as a whole.
While some reforms aren’t slated to take effect until Sept. 30, Air Passenger Rights advocacy group president Gabor Lukacs claims the transport agency could take steps immediately to up the maximum fine for airline violations and kick off consultations on who bears the regulatory cost of complaints.