Briefing package - Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities - December 1, 2020

Briefing package prepared for the Chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) appearance before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on December 1, 2020.

Background

Opening remarks from CTA Chair and CEO, Scott Streiner

Scott Streiner, Chair and CEO, Canadian Transportation Agency

I want to thank the committee for inviting my colleagues and me to appear today. We're living through an unusual and difficult time. I hope all of you and your loved ones have remained healthy and safe over the last nine months. While we have our respective roles to play, we are, first and foremost, fellow citizens.

I have the privilege to lead the Canadian Transportation Agency. The CTA was established in 1904 and is Canada's longest-standing independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator.

At no time in the century since the dawn of commercial aviation have airlines and their customers gone through the sorts of events we've witnessed since mid-March. Canadian airlines carried 85 per cent fewer passengers between March and September 2020 than during the same period in 2019. Such a collapse in volumes is without precedent.

Through this turmoil, the CTA has worked to protect air passengers. Despite the fact that almost every CTA employee has worked from home since the pandemic struck, the 300 dedicated public servants who make up the organization have spared no effort to continue providing service to Canadians.

Immediately after the crisis began, we updated our website with key information for travellers, so that those scrambling to get home would know their rights. We temporarily paused adjudications involving airlines to give them the ability to focus on repatriating the many thousands of Canadians stranded abroad. We took steps to help ensure that no Canadian who bought a non-refundable ticket would be left out of pocket for the value of cancelled flights. And we worked around to clock to process and issue the air licences and permits required for emergency repatriation flights and cargo flights to bring urgently-needed PPEs to Canada.

In the subsequent months, we've invested substantial resources and long hours to deal with the unprecedented tsunami of complaints filed since late 2019. Between the full coming-into-force on December 15 of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, the APPR, and the start of the pandemic three months later, we received a record 11,000 complaints. Since then, we've received another 11,000.

To put these numbers in perspective, in all of 2015, just 800 complaints were submitted. In other words, we've been getting more complaints every two to four weeks than we used to get in a year.

We've already processed 6,000 complaints since the pandemic reached Canada. By early 2021, we'll start processing complaints filed during the pandemic, including those related to the contentious issue of refunds. If the recently-announced negotiations between the Government and airlines result in the payment of refunds to some passengers, a portion of those complaints may be quickly resolved.

On the topic of refunds, it's important to understand that the reason the APPR don't include a general obligation for airlines to pay refunds when flights are cancelled for reasons outside their control is because the legislation only allows the regulations to require that airlines ensure passengers can complete their itineraries. As a result, the APPR's refund obligation applies exclusively to flight cancellations within airlines' control.

No one realized at the time how important this gap was. No one foresaw mass, worldwide flight cancellations that would leave passengers seeking refunds frustrated, airlines facing major liquidity issues, and tens of thousands of airline employees without jobs.

Because the statutory framework doesn't include a general obligation around refunds for flight cancellations beyond airlines' control, any passenger entitlements in this regard depend on the wording of each airline's applicable tariff. Every refund complaint will be examined on its merits, taking the relevant tariff language into account.

The APPR are among the strongest air passenger protection rules in the world and cover a wider range of passenger concerns than any other regime. But we now know that the gap highlighted by the pandemic is significant. If and when the CTA is given the authority to fix that gap, we'll act quickly.

Just before wrapping up, I'd like to mention one more area where the CTA has been active: accessibility. Since the CTA's groundbreaking Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations came into effect on June 25, we've been providing guidance to Canadians with disabilities and industry to ensure that these new rules are well-understood and respected. And we've continued to play a leadership role in encouraging the aviation sector, in Canada and around the globe, to integrate accessibility into the rebuilding process. Persons with disabilities should not be left behind as air travel gradually recovers.

Let me conclude by noting that because of the CTA's independent status and the quasi-judicial nature of our adjudications, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on Government policy or any matters currently before the CTA. But within those limits, my colleagues and I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Status of Air Industry

Overview

Let me offer a few statistics by way of illustration:

  • In 2019, the average number of people who went through a CATSA screening each day was 176,000 in Canada's top 15 major airports (by passenger volume). Since April 2020, that figure has dropped to just 18,000 daily.
  • In 2019, an average of 7.1 million passengers flew with a Level I Canadian air carrier every month*. Since April, that number has plummeted to an average of 621,000 per month.
  • In 2019, the seat supply offered by Canadian airlines ranged from 7.6 to 9.3 million seats per month. Since April, it has averaged about 1.5 million seats per month.
  • In 2019, the average load factor for Canadian airlines – the percentage of seats filled by passengers – was 84.2% …Since April, that number has averaged 40%.

*Level I air carriers (every Canadian air carrier that, in the calendar year before the year in which information is provided, transported at least 2 million revenue passengers): Air Canada (including Air Canada Rouge), Air Transat, Jazz, Porter, Sky Regional, Sunwing and WestJet (including Swoop, WestJet Encore and WestJet Link).

Other data

  1. Canadian carriers have experienced significant decrease in passengers since March 2020 as a result of the pandemic, with the biggest drop occurring in April 2020. Carriers have flown an average of 85% less passengers from March to September 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019.
  2. The number of passengers picked up in July of 2020, and has stayed relatively constant through September (see table on next page).
  3. Revenue in 2020 between March and September is down over 81% in 2020 over the same time period in 2019 for Level I Canadian Air Carriers. An overall decrease of $12.77 billion.
  4. Level I and II air carriers (level II carriers are those who transported between 100,000 and 2 million passengers in the previous calendar year) reported a combined operating revenue of $6.9 billion in Q2 of 2019 vs. $1.3 billion in Q2 of 2020, a similar decrease of 81%.
  5. Air transportation made up 0.50% of Canada's GDP in August of 2019. This has been reduced to 0.06% in August of 2020.
  6. In Q1 of 2020, There were an average of 64,377 employees across all level I and II air carriers in Canada. In Q2, this number dropped to 36,130, a decrease of 44%. An average of 28,000 jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2020. (Source: StatsCan Table: 23-10-0260-01)
  7. WestJet announced October 14th, 2020 that it has ended service to Maritimes. Such destinations included Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City.
    Source:WestJet slashing service to Eastern Canada as pandemic restrictions make markets ‘unviable’
    Media: Globe and Mail
    Date: 2020/10/14
    Author: Eric Atkins

  8. Air Canada has also suspended 125 routes, 30 of which are suspended indefinitely. These routes include:
    • Windsor to Montreal
    • Moncton to Halifax
    • Regina to Ottawa
  9. In addition Air Canada announced June 30th, 2020, 8 regional station are to be removed and that they will not resume rural routes until 2021. Some of the stations to be removed include:
    • North Bay, ON
    • Bathurst, NB
    • Val D'or, QC

Regulatory Impacts

  1. Air Transat, Porter and Sunwing are currently forecasted to fly less than 2 million passengers in 2020. The APPR requires a large carrier to fly 2 million or more passengers globally in each of the two preceding calendar years. Therefore, these carrier would shift to being classified as small carriers in 2021 in APPR.
  2. Porter is currently forecasted to fly less than 1 million passengers in 2020. The ATPDR requires a large carrier to fly 1 million or more passengers globally in each of the two preceding calendar years. Therefore, the carrier would fall out of scope for ATPDR.
  3. The earliest the carriers could return to being classified as large carrier in either APPR or ATPDR would be in 2023.

Monthly Passengers Flown by Level 1 Carriers

Monthly Passengers Flown by Level 1 Carriers
Month Passengers(x1000)
2020
Passengers(x1000)
2019
Year over Year Passenger Change(%) Operating Revenues(x1000)
2020
Operating Revenues(x1000)
2019
Year over Year Passenger Change(%)
Jan 7,056 6,882 3% 2,082,512 1,974,815 5%
Feb 6,889 6,667 3% 1,848,036 1,781,425 4%
Mar 4,300 7,688 -44% 1,311,953 2,166,147 -39%
Apr 213 7,054 -97% 180,885 1,918,532 -91%
May 224 6,822 -97% 254,300 2,005,653 -87%
Jun 440 7,204 -94% 246,186 2,268,100 -89%
Jul 845 8,028 -89% 291,934 2,502,527 -88%
Aug 1,091 8,276 -87% 342,987 2,714,663 -87%
Sep 914 6,913 -87% 315,718 2,140,681 85%

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 23-10-0079-01 Operating and financial statistics for major Canadian airlines, monthly

Questions and answers

The Agency does not have the authority to require air carriers to operate any services. The decision whether to operate, suspend or discontinue a service is entirely a commercial decision of the air carrier.

The Canada Transportation Act and Air Transportation Regulations require an air carrier that proposes to discontinue or reduce the frequency of a domestic service, in certain circumstances, to notify the Agency, affected communities and responsible ministers of their proposal and to also provide an opportunity for elected officials of the municipal or local government a chance to meet to discuss.

For air carriers that are subject to the notification and consultation requirements, once followed, they can discontinue the service. In situations where an air carrier has failed to comply with notification and consultation requirements, on complaint, the Agency can order the air carrier, where it is practicable for the air carrier to follow the order, to reinstate the service at the specified frequency but for no more than 120 days.

Appendix I provides the specific legal requirements.

What exemptions has the Agency provided?

On March 18, 2020, Air Canada applied to the Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) for a temporary exemption from the provisions of section 64 of the CTA to permit it to suspend the operation of air services between points in Canada, as it considered necessary, without having to provide the normal 120 days of notice or to engage in the consultations, as required by the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) and the Air Transportation Regulations(ATR).

On March 25, 2020, the Agency, by Order No. 2020-A-36, exempted all carriers that hold a domestic licence from the provisions of section 64 of the CTA until June 30, 2020, on the condition that once the exemption ended, carriers that had taken advantage of the exemption to temporarily reduce or suspend services on certain routes immediately resume those services and follow all the requirements of section 64 of the CTA if they wished to reduce or eliminate any services on a permanent basis.

On May 19, 2020, Air Canada requested that the Agency amend the Order to make the exemption permanent. Air Canada stated that as a result of the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis, it must manage the financial viability of its network, that doing so may require suspension or cancellation of routes between two points in Canada, and that there is no time to publish the prescribed public notices and undertake the associated consultations.

On June 19, 2020, the Agency, by Order No. 2020-A-105, extended the period of the temporary exemption to October 15, 2020, and also permitted any carrier that, during the period the Order was in effect, provided notice and engaged in discussions for a period of at least 60 days in a manner consistent with section 64 of the CTA and section 14 of the ATR to permanently discontinue or reduce service without the need to first resume that service or engage in any further notice or consultation activities.

On October 6, 2020, Air Canada requested an extension of Order No. 2020-A-105 to March 31, 2021, or such longer period as the Agency may consider appropriate.

On October 15, 2020, the Agency, in Decision No. LET-A-66-2020, extended the period of the temporary exemption until March 31, 2021 and accepted that, during the period of the temporary exemption, the publishing by a carrier of notices of suspension or discontinuance on its website and the establishing of a dedicated webpage for this purpose that is easily accessible from its homepage are as effective as compliance with notice requirements of the Regulations.

However, air carriers are still required to provide notice of the proposal to the Agency, to the Minister and to the minister responsible for transportation in the province or territory where the area to be affected is located.

Why did the Agency temporarily suspend the requirement for air carriers to follow the discontinuance process?

The Agency, in initially exempting air carriers from the requirement, noted that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is significant and continues to evolve as air carriers try to adjust to travel restrictions and rapidly dropping passenger volumes and revenues.

The Agency found that in light of the extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID‑19 pandemic and the urgency of the situation, compliance by Air Canada and other air carriers with the discontinuance requirement was impractical at that time.

The Agency, subsequently, in extending the period of the temporary exemption, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the Canadian aviation industry. The negative impact that the pandemic has had on domestic carriers' passenger volumes and revenues and, as a result, on their ability to manage their networks, makes it impractical to require domestic carriers to be subject to the provisions of discontinuance requirements of the Canada Transportation Act and Air Transportation Regulations.

Which air carriers have permanently discontinued the operation of domestic routes?

There is no obligation on air carriers to notify the Agency when they propose to discontinue a service except when the service that is to be discontinued falls within the two situations identified in section 64 of the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) and are thereby required to follow the CTA discontinuance process.

In the situations when air carriers are required to follow the CTA's discontinuance process, including to notify the Agency, since the beginning of the Pandemic, 3 carriers have notified the Agency that they proposed to discontinue their services.

While other air carriers have publicly indicated that they would be discontinuing their air services, no other air carrier has notified the Agency that they intend to follow the discontinuance process. Pursuant to the Agency's latest exemption order, air carriers can temporarily discontinue services up until March 31, 2021 without having to follow the discontinuance process.

Air carriers who have taken advantage of the exemption to temporarily reduce or suspend services are required to immediately resume those services after March 31, 2021 and follow all of the discontinuance requirements of the CTA if they wish to reduce or eliminate any services on a permanent basis.

Which carriers have notified the Agency that they will discontinue services?

Since the beginning of the Pandemic, three air carriers have notified the Agency that they propose to discontinue their services: (i) Perimeter Aviation, (ii) PAL Airlines Ltd, (iii) Air Canada

Air Carrier Route
Perimeter Aviation Sudbury and Timmins, Ontario
PAL Airlines Halifax – Charlo, NB
Air Canada Regina – Winnipeg
Fredericton – Halifax
Halifax – Moncton
Halifax – Saint John, NB
Montreal – Bathurst
Gander – Goose Bay
Gander – St. John's
Goose Bay – St. John's
Halifax – Charlottetown
Kingston – Toronto
North-Bay – Toronto
Ottawa – London, ON
Baie-Comeau – Mont-Joli
Baie-Comeau – Montréal
Québec – Gaspé
Gaspé – Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine
Montréal – Mont-Joli
Montréal – Val-d’Or
Québec – Sept-Îles
Rouyn-Noranda – Val-d’Or

When do the notification and consultation requirements apply?

Air carriers are subject to the Canada Transportation Act's and the Air Transportation Regulation's notification and consultation requirements when an air carrier proposes:

  1. to discontinue a domestic service or to reduce the frequency of such a service to a community to less than one flight per week and, as a result of the proposed discontinuance or reduction, there will be only one air carrier or no air carrier offering at least one flight per week to that community; and
  2. to discontinue its year-round non-stop scheduled air service between two communities in Canada and that discontinuance would result in a reduction, as compared to the week before the proposal is to take effect, of at least 50% of the weekly passenger-carrying capacity of all air carriers operating year-round non-stop scheduled air services between those two communities.

What process must air carriers follow when the notification and the consultation requirements apply?

In situations where the notification and consultation requirements apply, air carriers must not discontinue a service prior to:

  1. providing an opportunity for elected officials of the municipal or local government of the community or communities to meet and discuss with the air carrier the impact of the proposed discontinuance or reduction.
  2. 120 days (or any shorter notice period that the Agency may specify) after providing notice:
    1. to the Agency, to the Minister and to the minister responsible for transportation in the province or territory where the area to be affected is located; and
    2. to holders of domestic licenses operating in the area to be affected by the proposal and to persons resident therein, by publishing notice in newspapers with the largest circulation in that area in each official language.

Which airlines have continued to operate throughout the crisis, albeit at reduced levels?

Air Canada (source - Air Canada)

  • As per Air Canada's Q3 Report, released on November 9, Air Canada reduced its second and third quarter 2020 available seat miles (ASM) by 92 percent and 87.1 percent respectively, compared to the same quarters in 2019. Air Canada also plans to reduce fourth quarter capacity by approximately 75 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.
  • On June 30, 2020, Air Canada suspended service indefinitely on 30 domestic regional routes and closed eight stations at regional airports in Canada (as of Air Canada's Q3 Report, Published on November 9)
  • On November 2, 2020, Air Canada announced the departure of flight AC1810 from Toronto to Cancun, marking the return of Air Canada Rouge.

WestJet (source - Westjet)

  • On November 16, 2020, WestJet released its updated December schedule featuring up to 55 daily flights to sun destinations in the Caribbean, the United States (including Hawaii) and Mexico. The schedule also highlights increased domestic frequencies for travel starting December 5, 2020 through to January 4, 2021.
  • As per the recent news release, WestJet continues to operate at a reduced schedule and has removed over 63 percent capacity year over year, including approximately 73 percent capacity from the December schedule alone. During the holiday season, the airline will offer flights to 54 destinations including 33 in Canada, nine in the U.S. including Hawaii, five in Mexico, five in the Caribbean, one in Europe and one in Central America.

Northern Airlines

Based on our research, we could not locate any announcements made by Air North or Inuit indicating a full stop of service:

Air Inuit (source - Air Inuit)

  • Air Inuit continues to provide limited services; it has temporary suspended reservations between La Grande and Nunavik (as of October 15, 2020)

Air North (source - Air North)

  • Air North's services to and from Whitehorse/Yellowknife; Yellowknife/Ottawa; Whitehorse/Ottawa; and Whitehorse/Mayo remains suspended until further notice.
  • However, services to and from Whitehorse/Calgary and Whitehorse/Edmonton are scheduled to resume on December 19, 2020.
  • Schedules to and from the following cities are currently being serviced by Air North: Whitehorse/Kelowna, Whitehorse/Vancouver, Whitehorse/Victoria.
  • Available northern destinations include: Whitehorse, Dawson City, Old Crow, and Inuvik.

Which airlines completely ceased operations for a period of time, but have resumed operations, or will do so soon?

Sunwing (source - Sunwing)

  • On November 9, 2020, Sunwing announced it has returned to the skies, with the first flight taking off from Toronto Pearson International Airport and landing in Punta Canada International Airport on Friday, November 6.
  • The Flight marked Sunwing's return to travel, after grounding its aircrafts for over 230 days in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Sunwing halted its operations on March 23, 2020).
  • Although the operator has been sending Canadians to the tropics since August with the help of third-party carriers, the flight on November 6 marked the official return to service for Sunwing Airlines.

Transat (source - Transat (1) et Transat (2)

  • On July 23, 2020, resumed its air operations after four months of inactivity (Transat shut down its operations for 112 days). Three international flights, and another three domestic flights resumed: Montreal-Toulouse, Montreal-Paris and Toronto-London; and, Montreal-Toronto, Toronto-Montreal and Toronto-Vancouver.
  • On August 4, 2020, Transat also announced destinations it will offer travellers as of November 1, 2020. Air Transat plans to operate, at the height of the season, flights to more than 40 destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, the United States, Europe and Canada. A selection of South and Europe packages featuring more than 320 dream hotels will also be offered. No further announcements were included in Transat's media page on this matter.

Flair (source: Flair)

  • On June 3, 2020, Flair announced its return to Kelowna and Winnipeg.
  • On June 23, 2020, Flair announced it will be beginning service in the cities of Prince George, Fort McMurray, Regina, and Saskatoon, as well as Victoria.

Which airlines have completely ceased operations and are not expected to resume them any time soon?

Porter: (source: Porter)

  • On November 9, 2020, Porter announced it would be extending its suspension of service until February 11, 2021. The President and CEO of Porter Airlines Michael Deluce reasoned that, "Unfortunately, the continued and cumulative effects of restrictive travel advisories, border closures and quarantines have suffocated travel demand to the point that a return to sustainable levels of passenger traffic is highly unlikely in 2020.”

Other relevant information (previously provided by ECON team):

  • WestJet announced October 14th, 2020 that it has ended service to Maritimes. Such destinations included Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City
    Source:WestJet slashing service to Eastern Canada as pandemic restrictions make markets ‘unviable’
    Media: Globe and Mail
    Date: 2020/10/14
    Author: Eric Atkins
  • Air Canada has also suspended 125 routes, 30 of which are suspended indefinitely. These routes include:
    • Windsor to Montreal
    • Moncton to Halifax
    • Regina to Ottawa
  • In addition Air Canada announced June 30th, 2020, 8 regional station are to be removed and that they will not resume rural routes until 2021. Some of the stations to be removed include:
    • North Bay, ON
    • Bathurst, NB
    • Val D'or, QC

Legal Requirements – Appendix I

Pursuant to section 64 of the Canada Transportation Act:

  • 64(1) Where a licensee proposes to discontinue a domestic service or to reduce the frequency of such a service to a point to less than one flight per week and, as a result of the proposed discontinuance or reduction, there will be only one licensee or no licensee offering at least one flight per week to that point, the licensee shall give notice of the proposal in prescribed form and manner to such persons as are prescribed.
  • (1.1) If a licensee proposes to discontinue its year-round non-stop scheduled air service between two points in Canada and that discontinuance would result in a reduction, as compared to the week before the proposal is to take effect, of at least 50% of the weekly passenger-carrying capacity of all licensees operating year-round non-stop scheduled air services between those two points, the licensee shall give notice of the proposal in the prescribed form and manner to the prescribed persons.
  • (1.2) A licensee shall, as soon as practicable, provide an opportunity for elected officials of the municipal or local government of the community of the point or points, as the case may be, to meet and discuss with the licensee the impact of the proposed discontinuance or reduction.
  • (2) A licensee shall not implement a proposal referred to in subsection (1) or (1.1) until the expiry of 120 days, or 30 days if the service referred to in that subsection has been in operation for less than one year, after the notice is given or until the expiry of any shorter period that the Agency may, on application by the licensee, specify by order.
  • (3) In considering whether to specify a shorter period under subsection (2), the Agency shall have regard to
    1. the adequacy of alternative modes of public transportation available at or in the vicinity of the point referred to in subsection (1) or between the points referred to in subsection (1.1);
    2. other means by which air service to the point or between the points is or is likely to be provided;
    3. whether the licensee has complied with subsection (1.2); and
    4. the particular circumstances of the licensee.
  • (4) In this section, non-stop scheduled air service means an air service operated between two points without any stops in accordance with a published timetable or on a regular basis.

Pursuant to section 65 of the Canada Transportation Act:

  • 65 Where, on complaint in writing to the Agency by any person, the Agency finds that a licensee has failed to comply with section 64 and that it is practicable in the circumstances for the licensee to comply with an order under this section, the Agency may, by order, direct the licensee to reinstate the service referred to in that section
    1. for such a period, not exceeding 120 days after the date of the finding by the Agency, as the Agency deems appropriate; and
    2. at such a frequency as the Agency may specify

Pursuant to section 14 of the Air Transportation Regulations:

  • 14(1) For the purposes of subsection 64(1) of the Act, a licensee proposing to discontinue or to reduce the frequency of a domestic service to a point to less than one flight per week, where, as a result of the proposed discontinuance or reduction, there will be only one licensee or no licensee offering at least one flight per week to that point, shall give notice of the proposal
    1. to the Agency, to the Minister and to the minister responsible for transportation in the province or territory where the area to be affected is located, by sending them a notice in the form set out in Schedule III; and
    2. to holders of domestic licences operating in the area to be affected by the proposal and to persons resident therein, by publishing notice in the form set out in Schedule III in newspapers with the largest circulation in that area in each official language, the names of which newspapers shall be obtainable from the Agency on request by the licensee.
  • (1.1) For the purposes of subsection 64(1.1) of the Act, a licensee proposing to discontinue a year-round non-stop scheduled air service between two points in Canada, where the proposed discontinuance would result in a reduction, as compared to the week before the proposal is to take effect, of at least 50% of the weekly passenger-carrying capacity of all licensees operating year-round non-stop scheduled air services between those two points, shall give notice of the proposal to the persons, and in the manner, referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) and (b).
  • (2) The date of the notice referred to in paragraph (1)(b) shall be the same as the date on which the notice appears in the newspaper.

Statistics

Summary

Licences

Licences (new license)
Licences (new license) March April May June July August September October Total
2020 3 9 12 8 7 3 9 6 57
2019 6 4 7 4 7 6 4 8 46
Increase (Decrease) -3 5 5 4 0 -3 5 -2 11
% change -50% 125% 71% 100% 0% -50% 125% -25% 24%
 
Licences (Amendment, new licence)
Licences (Amendment, new licence) March April May June July August September October Total
2020 3 9 12 8 12 3 9 6 62
2019 8 4 7 4 7 6 4 8 48
Increase (Decrease) -5 5 5 4 5 -3 5 -2 14
% change -63% 125% 71% 100% 71% -50% 125% -25% 29%
 
Licences (Amendment, new, reinstatement)
Licences (Amendment, new, reinstatement) March April May June July August September October Total
2020 12 31 39 26 21 18 21 23 191
2019 17 8 21 11 16 12 10 17 112
Increase (Decrease) -5 23 18 15 5 6 11 6 79
% change -29% 288% 86% 136% 31% 50% 110% 35% 71%
 
Licences (Suspensions, reinstatement)
Licences (Suspensions, reinstatement) March April May June July August September October Total
2020 17 56 60 32 41 35 16 88 345
2019 18 16 39 22 20 16 19 23 173
Increase (Decrease) -1 40 21 10 21 19 -3 65 172
% change -6% 250% 54% 45% 105% 119% -16% 283% 99%
 
Licences (All activities)
Licences (All activities) March April May June July August September October Total
2020 34 72 84 43 58 39 32 106 468
2019 38 36 62 44 40 33 31 43 327
Increase (Decrease) -4 36 22 -1 18 6 1 63 141
% change -11% 100% 35% -2% 45% 18% 3% 147% 43%
 
Licences 2020
  March April May June July August September October Total
Amendment to Licence N/A N/A N/A N/A 5 N/A N/A N/A 5
Cancel Licence 6 6 11 2 2 N/A 5 1 33
Exemptions - Rulings N/A 1 N/A 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A 2
File closed 8 N/A 1 N/A 3 1 2 11 26
New Licence 3 9 12 8 7 3 9 6 57
Reinstatement 3 16 16 16 12 15 7 16 101
Suspension 14 40 44 16 29 20 9 72 244
Total 34 72 84 43 58 39 32 106 468
 
Licences 2019
  March April May June July August September October Total
Amendment to Licence 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2
Cancel Licence 8 7 12 14 10 5 5 5 66
Exemptions - Rulings 3 N/A 3 2 2 N/A N/A 2 12
File closed 1 9 1 2 1 6 3 5 28
New Licence 6 4 7 4 7 6 4 8 46
Reinstatement 9 4 14 7 9 6 6 9 64
Suspension 9 12 25 15 11 10 13 14 109
Grand Total 38 36 62 44 40 33 31 43 327

Charters

Charter Permits Issued
Charter Permits Issued March April May June July August September October Total
2020 75 26 49 47 25 44 27 21 314
2019 39 46 62 50 56 56 46 59 414
Increase (Decrease) 36 -20 -13 -3 -31 -12 -19 -38 -100
% change 92% -43% -21% -6% -55% -21% -41% -64% -24%
 
Charter Flight Notifications Received
Charter Flight Notifications Received March April May June July August September October Total
2020 158 122 117 62 65 139 162 120 945
2019 94 80 88 95 74 83 106 218 838
Increase (Decrease) 64 42 29 -33 -9 56 56 -98 -107
% change 68% -53% -33% -35% -12% -67% -53% -45% 13%
 
Charter Permit & Notifications
Charter Permit & Notifications March April May June July August September October Total
2020 233 148 166 109 90 183 189 141 1259
2019 133 126 150 145 130 139 152 277 1252
Increase (Decrease) 100 22 16 -36 -40 44 37 -136 7
% change 75% 17% 11% -25% -31% 32% 24% -49% 1%
 
Charters 2020
  March April May June July August September October Total
Goods Notice 15 46 63 25 12 46 121 34 362
Goods Permit 3 11 28 17 2 8 8 3 80
Passenger Canadian Origin - Notice 60 12 16 15 18 51 22 54 248
Passenger Canadian Origin - Permit 18 3 8 16 14 16 13 14 102
Passenger Foreign Origin - Notice 83 64 38 22 35 42 19 32 335
Passenger Foreign Origin - Permit 52 12 13 13 9 20 6 4 129
Passenger Resaleable - Permit 2 N/A N/A 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A 3
Total 233 148 166 109 90 183 189 141 1259
 
Charters 2019
  March April May June July August September October Total
Goods Notice 24 11 12 35 12 14 19 25 152
Goods Permit 6 6 18 10 11 9 9 8 77
Passenger Canadian Origin - Notice 25 18 22 30 29 40 47 106 317
Passenger Canadian Origin - Permit 12 20 27 18 21 15 19 18 150
Passenger Foreign Origin - Notice 45 51 54 30 33 29 40 87 369
Passenger Foreign Origin - Permit 20 19 17 20 20 27 13 19 155
Passenger Resaleable - Permit 1 1 N/A 2 4 5 5 14 32
Total 133 126 150 145 130 139 152 277 1252
 

COVID-19 Related Activity

Licences & Charter Permits Issued Related to COVID-19 Activities
  March April May June July August September October Total
Licences Issued: COVID-19 related 3 6 5 2 3 0 2 0 21
Permit Issued: Transportation of medical supplies & PPE 0 9 16 6 N/A 2 1 1 35
Permit Issued: Repatriation flights 0 6 8 3 4 11 1 0 33
Total 3 21 29 11 7 13 4 1 89
 
Charter Flight Notifications Received Related to COVID-19 Activities
  March April May June July August September October Total
Notice: Transportation of medical supplies & PPE 1 22 20 2 1 3 3 2 54
Notice: Repatriation flights 0 28 26 8 10 1 3 2 78
Total 1 50 46 10 11 4 6 4 132

*Licences issued cannot necessarily be linked specifically to COVID-19 related activities, as licenses are not flight specific, but rather they provide the ability to operate any type of flight. That said, the licenses identified above were linked by staff to initial air transportation activity that likely had its reasons in transportation for COVID-19 related flights based on the information included in the application, through discussion with the applicant or other sources of information.

**Reflects only the charter permits issued /charter flight notifications received related to COVID-19 type activities (i.e. transportation of medical supplies and repatriation flights).

***In some cases, multiple flights are captured on the same permit/notice (e.g. Hainan Airlines Holding has filed 20 notices for 360 flights).

****Data for repatriation flights for the month of March is not available, as that level of detail was not initially captured.

Member of Parliament Comments

Stephanie Kusie (Vice-Chair of Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities)

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions – November 6th,2020

Hansard reference

Stephanie Kusie
(Conservative, Calgary Midnapore, AB)

Mr. Speaker, that sounds like the same old empty Liberal promises: lots of words but no action.

I have two more questions for the minister. Will the minister commit to restoring all regional routes across Canada?

Secondly, will he ensure consumer protection, that the tens of thousands of Canadians across Canada get their money back for the flights they purchased?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, in response to my colleague, I will mention the Speech from the Throne, which I am sure she was enthralled listening to.

We did mention in the throne speech that we were going to ensure that regional routes would be maintained in Canada because we feel it is absolutely essential to treat people living in regions the same way as we treat people living in the large cities. They have as many rights as others, so we are working on that.
With respect to the question of consumers and vouchers, we are encouraging the airlines to refund where possible.

Stephanie Kusie
(Conservative, Calgary Midnapore, AB)

Thank you, Minister.

Will you provide within your plan protection for consumers—those tens of thousands of Canadians who have not received refunds from the airline sector as a result of your inability to provide viability for the airline sector—by providing what I hope is finally viability for the airline sector? Can you make the commitment today, please, that you will also take care of these tens of thousands of Canadians who have spent tens of thousands of dollars, who have gone into debt and who have not received refunds? Will you ensure that these consumers are protected, Minister?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

As I have said, I am certainly aware of the fact that there are many consumers who would have preferred to have a refund as opposed to a voucher. They have expressed themselves very clearly on that. Again, as I said, we are looking at the whole picture in terms of the effects of this pandemic, not only on the air sector itself but also on the passengers who make use of that air sector.

Of course, as you well know, being a politician, I'm not at liberty to come out today in this committee and discuss all of the details of what we are going to do. I can only reassure you that we're looking at the whole picture at this time.
Links & Sharing

Stephanie Kusie
(Conservative, Calgary Midnapore, AB)

Thank you, Minister.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities – Meeting - November 5th, 2020

Meeting Reference Stephanie Kusie (Conservative, Calgary Midnapore, AB)

Thank you, Minister.

You know what they say: If you read it on the Internet, it's most certainly true.
Minister, I'll return to two assurances I asked for, and unfortunately did not receive, within my first round. Again, those are regarding the workers, the airline employees. Can you please commit that this sector support, when it is given, will assure that there are no further layoffs?

Second, as I asked and as my colleagues across several parties asked, can you assure that within this sector support, within this plan, consumers, passengers, will be finally reimbursed?

I asked you in the first round. I was really hoping to get some assurance for both the employees of the airline sector, who are clinging to their jobs, hanging onto their jobs, hoping to ride out this difficult situation, and for the many Canadians who are looking at their Visa bills or Mastercard bills with charges of $1,000, $3,000, $5,000 or $10,000 from long ago for these flights and who need to be reimbursed. Are you able to provide any type of comfort or reassurance at this time regarding workers or passengers?
Links & Sharing

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Ms. Kusie, hats off to you for your persistence in asking the question. Unfortunately, as you know, I cannot give you specifics at this point, other than to tell you that I'm very, very aware of the two points you raise, one with respect to the protection of workers and the other with respect to passengers who would like to be reimbursed. I can tell you on the side that many of those passengers have written to me, so I'm extremely aware of the fact that they're not happy with the current situation. We are taking those things into consideration as we try to elaborate on a program that will address the air sector.

Social media comments

Nov. 24 (requesting plan from Government for airline industry)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1331436733750267905

Nov. 16 (wrote an op\ed in HillTimes about the need for plan for airline industry)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1328369770257735680

op\ed: https://www.hilltimes.com/2020/11/16/canadas-aviation-sector-needs-a-plan/271582

Nov. 8 (retweeted news report about requirement for refunds linked to bailout)
https://twitter.com/660NEWS/status/1325581401136226305

Nov. 8 (her 2 tweets reacting to TC Min statement about bailout and refunds)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1325556197395582976

Nov. 6 (her QP questions to TC Min. about upcoming airline industry plan)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1324773858197397504

Oct. 26 (reaction to CBC story about the CTA about thousands of complaints linked to refunds)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1320726013844680704

Oct. 22 (tweeting about her letter to TC Min about urgency of airline industry plan)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1319331749520764929

Letter to Minister Garneau: https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1319331749520764929/photo/1

Oct. 21 (retweets support from prominent aviation sector association, NACC)
https://twitter.com/NACC_CNLA/status/1319026144298045441

Sept. 24 (her reaction to "lack of support" in throne speech for airline industry)
https://twitter.com/StephanieKusie/status/1309231886280003589/photo/1

Xavier Barsalou-Duval (Vice-chair of Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities)

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities – Meeting - November 5th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Exchange with Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC )

Thank you for your replies.
I believe I understand that we can't expect much from you regarding the reimbursement of airline tickets. There are people who handle complaints at the Canadian Transportation Agency. But the person responsible for handling complaints has been excluded from the Bar. Are you comfortable with this situation?
In addition, I would like to know the process for selecting the people you appoint to the Canadian Transportation Agency's board of directors. You appointed the spouse of someone who does lobbying for airlines.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

I will not comment on the people who work at the Canadian Transportation Agency. As you know, it is a quasi-judicial body independent of Transport Canada and makes its own decisions. Having said that, I can assure you that a very fair system is used to select the people who work at the Canadian Transportation Agency. Rigorous checks are done before someone is appointed to this very important agency.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

So you have no problem appointing spouses of lobbyists to the agency?

Later exchange with Transport Minister Hon. Marc Garneau, same proceeding

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC )

Do you not think that airlines should respect the law?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

You will understand the dilemma, Mr. Barsalou-Duval. Some airlines are so close to bankruptcy that they would not be able to continue their operations. It's a very difficult decision for the company. I think you will agree with me that we want the airline sector to still be there after this pandemic. This is not an easy situation to manage.

Later exchange with Transport Minister Hon. Marc Garneau, same proceeding

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Regional air transport is essential to the economic development of these regions. You cannot decide to close the airports in the Quebec regions. It is absolutely unthinkable, and I hope you will understand that.

I have one last question for you. I recently tabled Bill C-249 to ensure that passengers who purchased a ticket and did not receive service get a refund.
Will I be able to count on your support for this bill?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

As for your first comment on the importance of air service in the regions, we are on the same wavelength, Mr. Barsalou-Duval.

As I told you, this was in the Speech from the Throne. It is important for us to treat all citizens of Canada equally and to provide them with access to the same services, whether they live in the regions or in major centres. Rest assured that this is one of our priorities.

With respect to the issue of repayments, as I said to you, we are aware of this situation and we are looking at it in the context of a broader plan that we are developing.

Later exchange with Transport Canada Deputy Minister Michael Keenan

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC )

Mr. Keenan, are you satisfied with the fact that people have filed more than 10,000 complaints about unrefunded airline tickets, none of which has been dealt with by the Canadian Transportation Agency?

Michael Keenan

I would simply come back to the points that the minister raised.

This is a very sensitive issue. It's a very difficult issue. It's one that we're really aware of and considering closely as we do analysis and provide advice on possible measures with respect to the economic crisis in the air sector.

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions - October 23rd, 2020

Hansard Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-249, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (refund – cancelled air service).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Jean, for supporting the introduction of this important bill today. This bill is the product of months of work with consumer groups as well.

I thought it was important to introduce this bill on behalf of regular people who bought plane tickets and are entitled to a refund. The Minister of Transport's response is ambiguous. He does not seem prepared to tell them that they are entitled to a refund even though the law says they are. This bill answers that question, reaffirming that passengers are entitled to a refund.
I hope that I will have the support of many members of the House. I am quite confident that we will get substantial support.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Bill C-249

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions - October 22nd, 2020

Hansard Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Speaker, after seven months of pressure from the Bloc Québécois, the government finally realized that people who bought plane tickets during the pandemic might like a refund. The government announced that it wanted to help WestJet and Air Canada and that this might include refunds. The Bloc intervened to make sure airlines would refund customers with their own money, not taxpayers' money. Yesterday, WestJet announced that it was going to start refunding customers.

That is a good start, but when will the Minister of Transport show some leadership? When will he make Air Canada refund its customers?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I realize that folks are very frustrated and they would like a refund. That is why WestJet's decision is a step in the right direction. This issue is important to Canadians, and we expect the airlines to do whatever they can. At the same time, we know that the airlines were hit hard by the pandemic. That is why we are working on measures so we can ensure that Canadians can continue travelling safely and affordably across this country.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Speaker, people are frustrated because they feel that the Minister of Transport is nowhere to be found.

Before it gets any taxpayer money, Air Canada must refund customers whose flights were cancelled. Air Canada is being a terrible corporate citizen, and Ottawa is letting it get away with it. Ottawa lets it charge ridiculously high prices while it provides poor regional service, engages in dumping to kill competition, and refuses to serve customers in French. If Ottawa keeps letting it do as it pleases, Air Canada will never refund anyone.

When will the minister finally set a deadline to ensure that people get their money back from Air Canada?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are working on measures to ensure that Canadians can continue to rely on our airlines, which provide service nationwide, and that all Canadians, whether they live in the regions or in our cities, will always be confident that they can continue travelling safely and reliably across this country.

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions - October 19th, 2020

Hansard Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present petition e-2604, which has been signed by over 32,000 people in Quebec and across Canada. The petition basically calls on the federal government to do what it should have done six or seven months ago and require airlines to refund customers for services that were not delivered. Many consumer protection groups support this. Everyone hopes the government will listen to reason and comply.

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions - October 5th, 2020

Hansard Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC )

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Quebec had to close restaurants and bars. The next day, it announced help for restaurants and bars. The Government of Quebec had to close theatres. The next day, it announced help for theatres. The Government of Canada had to close airports. Six months later, there is still nothing to help them. While the Minister of Transport tells us he is thinking about it, other countries are supporting their airline industries.

What is the minister doing? When is he going to do something?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
I want to assure him that we are working very hard to find help for our country's airline industry. We know that it has been profoundly affected by this pandemic. I can assure him that the government's priority is to find solutions to ensure that the airline industry will be healthy when the pandemic is over.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities –Meeting - June 16th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, I was inspired by my Conservative colleague's questions. He asked you if you had met often with airline representatives over the past few months and I am reassured to see that you are in constant communication with them.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, have you had the opportunity to discuss the issue of cancelled flights with groups such as Air Passenger Rights, Option consommateurs or other consumer protection organizations?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Thank you, Mr. Barsalou-Duval, for your question.
I'm very aware of the fact that travel credits rather than refunds have been offered, partly because I get a lot of information, especially from social media, and also because you ask me a lot of questions about it. I'm very well aware of the situation and it's complex.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Minister, I understand that you have not had the opportunity to meet with these organizations, but it might be a good thing if you did. It might give you some ideas on how to better defend passenger rights.
In supplementary estimates (A), there is no additional amount for the Canadian Transportation Agency, or CTA, and yet there is $32 million under proposed authorities.

Does the agency have enough money to enforce the act so that travellers will eventually be reimbursed for a cancelled flight?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Thank you for the question.

We have increased the agency's budget over last year. We felt that there would be more requests related to passenger rights and other issues, such as accessibility, for which the agency is largely responsible. The number of requests received by the agency is indeed higher than anticipated, which justifies the increase in its budget for this year.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

You'll understand if I'm a little disappointed. The Canadian Transportation Agency, the organization that is supposed to defend travellers and passengers, is giving the airlines permission not to reimburse their customers. It has even given them the right to not deal with any complaints about flights cancelled because of COVID-19 before October 28.
At this time, the agency has 14,000 outstanding complaints. By the time the agency starts processing these complaints, it will be so far behind schedule that it will take more than two years to clear the backlog. What's worse is that you didn't even bother to respond when you were asked about this by journalist Mélanie Marquis from La Presse. It was your press secretary who did, and she said this: “It is within the CTA's jurisdiction to investigate complaints about its regulations as it sees fit.”

I wonder if you're interested in this problem and if you're ever going to deal with it.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

First of all, I'm very interested because I hear about it every day. Second, I'd like to correct your description of the role of the Canadian Transportation Agency. It is a quasi-judicial body responsible for ensuring that complaints are properly dealt with, including by the airlines, and that decisions are made according to the rules. It's not just about standing up for consumers, it's also about making the right decisions about who is right and who should be compensated.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Are the travel credits offered by airlines legal tender in Canada? For example, can you pay your taxes with travel credits?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

The interpretation of the rules concerning credits and refunds is contained in the airline fares. These fares do not always say that a refund must be provided. You need to read them to find out if a credit or refund is offered. I encourage people to do that.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

My question was more about whether the travel credits are legal tender. I'm not asking you whether, according to your interpretation, airlines are entitled to give travel credits, but whether they can be used to pay your taxes, for example. Is it a currency? I guess not.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

That's a good question. I don't have the answer, but I will get back to you on that.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

All right.
WestJet announced that it would be reimbursing some of its customers. But it is not bankrupt. Yet you've often claimed that airlines will go bankrupt if they reimburse their customers for a cancelled flight.

Air Canada, which had $6 billion in cash at the beginning of the crisis, now has $9.7 billion, according to analysts. Its liquidities have increased and it is not at all on the verge of bankruptcy. Air Transat, for its part, has said that it would be prepared to reimburse its customers if there was government assistance.

Is the government going to offer any assistance? If so, will it be conditional on passengers being reimbursed for cancelled flights?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

I'm going to give you an overview of the airline situation. You have to consider all of them, not just the ones you mentioned. At the moment, many airlines are not operating at all or very little. So they have almost no revenue at the moment. It's quite serious for some of them.

As I have often said, I expect airlines to do everything in their power to compensate their passengers in the best possible way when circumstances permit. This is an obligation that is incumbent upon the airlines. In light of the current situation, we have some programs in place, such as the wage subsidy for airlines, and some of them are using it.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Thank you. I believe you've answered my question.
I wish I'd known, actually...

COVI Committee Meeting – May 28th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

On April 27, Option consommateurs sent a letter to the Minister of Transport to warn him that the airlines' refusal to reimburse their customers for cancelled flights was contrary to Quebec's laws.

What is the minister going to do to put an end to this situation?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I sympathize with the people who would have preferred to get a refund, and I understand their frustration. It is not an ideal situation. The airlines are going through a very difficult time right now. If they were forced to refund their customers immediately, many of them would go bankrupt.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, the minister sounds like a broken record.

A few hours ago, the following motion was passed unanimously: “THAT the National Assembly ask the Government of Canada to order airlines and other carriers under federal jurisdiction to allow customers whose trips have been cancelled because of the current pandemic to obtain a refund.”

What will the Minister of Transport tell the National Assembly of Quebec?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, as my hon. colleague knows, the Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled on this issue and has ruled that, in the present circumstances and in a non-binding way, it is acceptable for airlines to offer credits for up to two years. In the case of Air Canada, the credit has no expiry date.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, I find it rather odd that the Minister of Transport and the Canadian Transportation Agency are telling the airlines that Quebec's regulations and laws are not important and that they can override them. It seems to me that this is a strange way to operate. Theoretically, under the famous Canadian Constitution, which they imposed on us, that is not how it should work. Can they uphold their own constitution?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, as my hon. colleague probably knows, the Canadian Transportation Agency is a quasi-judicial body that operates at arm's length from Transport Canada and the Government of Canada.

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions – May 25th, 2020

Hansard Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Speaker, it is funny; last week, when I asked the minister of Transport a question about the Canadian Transportation Agency, he did not want to comment on a decision the agency had made. Maybe he does not know this, or maybe he does, but I want to remind him that in Europe and the United States, airlines are refunding passengers.

Take, for example, Air Canada, which is not on the brink of bankruptcy. It has $6 billion in its accounts, and $2.6 billion of that belongs to its passengers. It has enough money to tough it out for a year—not to mention that the government is allowing the airline to take advantage of the wage subsidy and has offered it $800 million through EDC.
Will he finally make the airlines refund their customers?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, despite what my colleague said, the situation in Europe and the United States is not as clear-cut as he is claiming today.
This situation is very difficult for all airlines. The Canadian Transportation Agency is a quasi-judicial agency that is responsible for consumers. It made that very difficult decision, which is not mandatory. It is recommending vouchers that would be valid for two years.

COVI Committee Meeting – May 20th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Canadian Transportation Agency told the airlines that they were not required to reimburse their customers and that they could simply give them a credit, valid for 24 months. This is contrary to the laws of Quebec.
How does the government feel about a federal institution telling companies not to follow the laws of Quebec?

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos
(Liberal MP, Québec, QC)

Yes, upholding the law is the responsibility of both citizens and businesses. We therefore expect all companies, whether or not they are in the air transport sector, to follow the laws and regulations of the country.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Madam Chair, I am discouraged.

We simply have to reimburse the customers. It is not complicated. It's the law. Period.

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos
(Liberal MP, Québec, QC)

I thank my colleague. I will be delighted to continue the discussion, despite the short time we will have in the House to do so.

COVI Committee Meeting – May 19th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, I would like the Minister of Transport to explain why European and American airlines have to give people whose flights were cancelled refunds, but Canadian airlines don't.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I won't comment on measures other countries have taken.

What I will say is that Canada has a solid understanding of the health of its airlines. I also understand the frustration of those who would've preferred to receive refunds.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, the Civil Code of Québec and the Consumer Protection Act require airlines to refund customers for cancelled flights.

Why are the Canadian Transportation Agency and Canada's Minister of Transport encouraging airlines to break Quebec law?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, the Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent body that makes its own decisions. It's a quasi-judicial tribunal, so I can't speak for it.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

The question was also for the Minister of Transport.

Why does the Minister of Transport think it's okay to confiscate people's money and not provide them with a service when it's against Quebec law?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I won't comment on the decision or opinion issued by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Again, my question is for the Minister of Transport, not the Canadian Transportation Agency, although I would like to ask its officials the same question.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

As Minister of Transport, my priority is the health of Canada's airlines because they are going to have to start operating again post-COVID-19.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Over the weekend, Air Canada announced the layoff of 20,000 people. I was wondering whether the minister would at least ensure that the people whose flights were cancelled would receive a refund, since the Prime Minister said that he would be helping Air Canada.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

As I said earlier, I understand the frustration of people who would have preferred a refund rather than a credit. The point is that our airlines are going through a very difficult time right now, since 95% of their revenue has disappeared.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Air Canada stated that it laid off 20,000 people to preserve its cash flow, among other reasons. However, according to the March 31 financial statements, Air Canada has $6 billion in cash flow. Even if the company were losing $20 million a day, it would have enough money to meet its needs for almost a year. Of that $6 billion, $2.6 billion belongs to its customers. In many cases, these customers have lost their jobs and are far from being able to cover their expenses for a year.

Why did the Liberal government give an additional $800 million to the company without even requiring it to reimburse its customers?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, we have introduced programs to help Canadian businesses such as the Canada emergency wage subsidy and the credit availability program for large businesses.
As everyone knows, airlines, including Air Canada, have lost 95% of their revenue, since people can't fly right now. Those companies have major expenditures nevertheless.
They all have fixed costs given their extensive assets, aircraft and other monthly expenses, and that's why they all need our help.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, I would like the Minister of Transport to explain why European and American airlines have to give people whose flights were cancelled refunds, but Canadian airlines don't.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I won't comment on measures other countries have taken.

What I will say is that Canada has a solid understanding of the health of its airlines. I also understand the frustration of those who would've preferred to receive refunds.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, the Civil Code of Québec and the Consumer Protection Act require airlines to refund customers for cancelled flights.

Why are the Canadian Transportation Agency and Canada's Minister of Transport encouraging airlines to break Quebec law?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, the Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent body that makes its own decisions. It's a quasi-judicial tribunal, so I can't speak for it.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

The question was also for the Minister of Transport.
Why does the Minister of Transport think it's okay to confiscate people's money and not provide them with a service when it's against Quebec law?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I won't comment on the decision or opinion issued by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Again, my question is for the Minister of Transport, not the Canadian Transportation Agency, although I would like to ask its officials the same question.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

As Minister of Transport, my priority is the health of Canada's airlines because they are going to have to start operating again post-COVID-19.

COVI Committee Meeting – May 14th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Since mid-March, thousands of Quebeckers whose flights were cancelled have been forced to accept a simple 24-month travel credit as compensation. In Europe and the United States, this practice is prohibited. Carriers are required to reimburse their customers. Here, on the contrary, the practice is even encouraged by the Canadian Transportation Agency. However, the government has been advised by Option consommateurs that this practice contravenes the Civil Code. For his part, the Minister of Transport remains completely silent. Why does he tolerate airlines confiscating the money that people need to pay their bills?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

I fully understand the frustration of people who would have liked a refund instead of a credit. However, our priority over the last nine weeks has been to help those Canadians who need it the most, those who have lost their jobs, small and medium-sized businesses, students and seniors. That is what we have focused on.

Having said that, we must also face the facts: the airlines are in trouble right now. They have lost 95% of their revenue, but they still have fixed costs to pay. The situation is very difficult, but I understand the frustration of people who would have liked a refund.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

Mr. Chair, it is important to keep in mind that some of the people who were denied reimbursement have also lost their jobs.

This week, we learned that Export Development Canada offered Air Canada a generous sum of $788 million in assistance. That amount is not to be laughed at. It does not include the 75% wage subsidy that the company is receiving.
I would like to know why the minister did not take that opportunity to require that, in return, the company reimburse the thousands of Quebeckers who are being held hostage by those travel credits.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

It is important to also understand that the airlines have lost 95% of their revenue. Some of them have stopped all their flights, but they still have fixed costs. Air Canada is losing more than $20 million a day because its flights are interrupted. The situation is very difficult, even with the measures that the government has put in place.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

To give you the exact information, according to some analysts, Air Canada has enough cash to cover several months and the situation is not very urgent. In fact, according to those analysts, the company had more than $6 billion in cash over the past few months.
I understand that the airlines may need help, but can they reimburse the average people who have paid for their airfare and need that money to pay their bills?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Once again, I understand the frustration of people who would have liked a refund rather than a credit for a future flight. At the same time, we in the government must ensure that, once the pandemic is over and the economy recovers, companies will be able to resume providing the air services that are so important to our country.

Xavier Barsalou-Duval
(Bloc, Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC)

In its financial statements as of March 31, Air Canada had $2.6 billion in prepaid customer revenues in its coffers. That is $2.6 billion that the thousands of people who have lost their jobs do not have, when they need to pay their bills at the end of the month.

If I understand the minister's answer correctly, he thinks it is okay for a company to rebuild its financial health on the backs of its customers and to benefit from government money that comes from taxpayers.

Is the minister serving the public or the big companies?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

I thank the hon. member for his question.

My colleague keeps giving Air Canada as an example. It is important to keep in mind that there are other airlines in our country that are in dire straits. Some are even facing bankruptcy right now. It is a very complex situation and we must help our airlines.

Social media comments

Nov. 9 (refunds)
https://twitter.com/BlocQuebecois/status/1325770109407916034

Nov. 8 (APR retweet about bill C-249)
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1325534612974694400
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1325535039644454914
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1325531771799269376

Nov. 6 (bait and switch tactic)
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1324854187012870144

Nov. 6 (CTA criticism)
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1324759766971928576

Oct. 26 (CTA and Government criticism)
https://twitter.com/BlocQuebecois/status/1320847925681946626

Oct. 24 (retweet of MP Chief tweet about refunds)
https://twitter.com/yfblanchet/status/1320013666050297856

Oct. 23rd (retweeting APR support for C-249)
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1319690382393868293

Oct. 23rd (retweet his submission of C-249)
https://twitter.com/CdcChambre/status/1319674013656940544

Oct. 20th (retweet APR on conditions for bailout)
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1318520592719597568

Sept. 2nd (CTA criticism)
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1301179370875301890

July 16th (APR retweet criticizing lack of refunds)
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1283781448584040448

July 15th (APR retweet of criticism of APPR)
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1283410435937579008

July 12th (tweeting about survey showing support for refunds)
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1282321644174835713

June 29 (urging refunds from Air Canada)
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1277775754588291072

June 26 (criticizing Air Canada reimbursing EU passengers)
https://twitter.com/XBarsalouDuval/status/1276231750486822919

June 21st (APR retweet about refunds)
https://twitter.com/AirPassRightsCA/status/1274775388774940674

Taylor Bachrach (Member of Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities)

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities –Meeting - June 16th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Taylor Bachrach
(NDP, Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC)

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, for appearing today. I would like to pick up where my colleague left off on the issue of refunds for passengers who purchased tickets that they were not able to use.

Maybe I'll start by just asking you very bluntly whether you are considering forcing the airlines to provide full refunds to passengers who are not able to use their tickets.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

We are following the situation, as I said to the previous MP. I'm encouraging the airlines to provide the best possible compensation to their passengers when circumstances permit. Some of these airlines are not in a position to do this at this time. It's important for consumers to also be aware of what the tariffs actually say. Those are the contracts of their ticket purchase. It's not as clear-cut as many people may think.

In the best of all worlds, we would like to make sure that all passengers are happy, but as you know, the airlines have been hammered by this pandemic. Some of them are not operating at all, and some of them are operating at below 10% and yet are still facing serious fixed costs.

Taylor Bachrach
(NDP, Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC)

I would offer that many Canadian families are hurting financially as well and that the cost of an airline ticket can be quite steep.

Other authorities around the world have taken different approaches. On April 3, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an enforcement notice. I'll just read for you the one sentence that stood out to me: “The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier's control...”.

We've seen similar decisions in the European Union and the U.K. What does it say to you that Canada's consumer protections are so out of step with what these other countries are doing? After this situation is over, is improving these consumer protections for air travellers a priority of your government?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

There's no question that this pandemic was something that was never anticipated when we were looking at putting in place the passenger protection rights—it was a totally unexpected situation—and it is something that we will be looking at so that we can know in the future how to deal with this in a clear manner.

I would say to you that's it often brought up that Europe and the United States have taken a different approach. I would ask you to look more closely at individual countries and airlines. I think you'll find that the reality is not quite the way that you presented it. It's a complex situation, and European and American airlines are suffering as much as Canadian airlines.

Taylor Bachrach
(NDP, Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC)

I imagine for the consumers who are out thousands of dollars the situation to them is quite stark and quite simple. I would offer that.

My next question concerns rule 40 of the CTA's code of conduct, which states, “Members shall not publicly express an opinion about any past, current, or potential cases or any other issue related to the work of the Agency...”.

Assuming that the statement on vouchers from March 25 came from the members of the CTA, do you have any concern that rule 40 was breached?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

I believe that the CTA made a further statement of clarification after that. I don't have that. Perhaps I can turn to my deputy minister on that, but if we don't have it with us, I know that the CTA did provide additional clarification after its initial remarks about the suitability of vouchers, although it was non-binding.

Chris Bittle (Member of Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities)

House of Commons Debate – Oral Questions – November 20th, 2020

Hansard Reference

Jag Sahota
(Conservative, Calgary-Skyview, AB)

Madam Speaker, over 82% of travel agents are women whose income is totally tied to commissions from selling airfares and vacation packages to their clients. However, when airlines refund customers, the airlines automatically claw back the commission that a travel agent has earned.

Running a small business is no easy task. With the majority of this industry being women, will the Minister for Women and Gender Equality ensure that any bailout package to our airline industry protects these Canadian women?

Secretary to the Minister of Transport - Chris Bittle
(Liberal, St. Catharines, ON)

Madam Speaker, we are aware of the frustration many consumers are facing and we have heard the voices of travel agents across the country. This is an important issue and it is why we are working with all parties to find a way forward. We will continue to be there for Canadians and expect airlines to do everything they can to compensate their customers. Our government continues to work hard to ensure that Canadians stay connected across the country as we build our economy.

Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities – Meeting - June 16th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Secretary to the Minister of Transport - Chris Bittle
(Liberal, St. Catharines, ON)

We talked about the reality of the situation with the refunds. With respect to the EU, is the reality of the situation that the refund policy is not being enforced by member nations for their national airlines?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Yes, in fact, many countries and airlines have said that they are not in the position to do it, and it is not being enforced.

Secretary to the Minister of Transport - Chris Bittle
(Liberal, St. Catharines, ON)

With respect to the United States, the U.S. airlines received a taxpayer-funded bailout of $25 billion U.S. Is that correct?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

They actually received a total package that was larger than that. It was $50 billion U.S. Part of it was to help with labour costs, essentially very close to our wage subsidy, and some of it, roughly half of it, was low-interest loans comparable to some of the programs we have also put in place.

Secretary to the Minister of Transport - Chris Bittle
(Liberal, St. Catharines, ON)

My understanding of the refund mandate from U.S. authorities, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that the refund policy isn't being enforced in the United States.
Is that true, as far as you're aware?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Although the government's Department of Transportation said it needed to be enforced, as I understand it, that's not happening everywhere.

Secretary to the Minister of Transport - Chris Bittle
(Liberal, St. Catharines, ON)

Everyone on this committee, including you, has mentioned the importance of having a national airline. If the government mandated refunds that in turn led to the bankruptcy of a national airline, then what would the value of individual tickets be, if they're an unsecured creditor in a bankruptcy proceeding?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Of course that's a scenario I hope to avoid, because things can get worse and we definitely don't want that to happen. I will not be able to give you a precise figure because it's information that is commercial and confidential, but there are billions of dollars involved here with vouchers that airlines have committed to passengers. There are large amounts involved.

Secretary to the Minister of Transport - Chris Bittle
(Liberal, St. Catharines, ON)

Okay. I'm out of time.
Thank you, Minister.

Niki Ashton (Associate Member of Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities)

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions – November 2nd, 2020

Hansard Reference

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

Mr. Speaker, the government's failure to ensure passengers get their money back is turning into an international embarrassment. Now American passengers are taking Air Canada to court to get their money back.

Instead of standing up for consumers, the government keeps pretending there is nothing they can do. This is not true.

Why is the government dithering? Who in there thinks it is okay for Canadian airlines to rip off their customers?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, I am very conscious of the fact that many Canadians are frustrated and they would prefer to have refunds. I understand that, and we are encouraging airlines to follow up.

At the same time, airlines and the air sector in general are going through a very rough period at the moment. That is why we are working on a package to address the requirements to ensure that Canadians will have a reliable, affordable and safe air sector after this pandemic is over.

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions – October 22nd, 2020

Hansard Reference

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

Mr. Speaker, it is not enough for the transport minister to abandon workers, but he also has to gaslight passengers. He tweeted his congratulations to WestJet for issuing refunds to some passengers with cancelled tickets, when he literally spent seven months backing up the airlines. Thousands of passengers have been left waiting. The agency he is responsible for issued a statement on vouchers that rips passengers off directly.
That is enough with the hypocrisy. Will the government finally take action and step up to defend the rights of all passengers and Canadian consumers?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly aware of the frustration that many passengers have felt. The action taken by WestJet is a good step in the right direction. I know it is an important issue for Canadians. At the same time, the pandemic has hit the air sector hard and that is why we are working on measures to try to ensure Canadians will be able to continue travelling safely and affordably across this country. For the information of my colleague, the Canadian Transportation Agency does not come under Transport Canada.

House of Commons Debates – Oral Questions – October 19th, 2020

Hansard Reference

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

Mr. Speaker, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the airline industry with routes cut, massive layoffs and customers being ripped off. Countries around the world facing these same challenges have shown leadership and put in place solutions, including taking on an equity stake to protect the public interest, but not Canada.

It is not about helping CEOs. It is about protecting Canadian jobs and making sure passengers get their money back. When will the government stop dithering and commit to a rescue package of public equity, job protection and consumer protection, which the NDP has been calling for?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my colleague and, indeed, all Canadians that we are working very hard. We recognize that there have been great difficulties in the air sector, including airlines and airports, and we are working on solutions that will ensure Canadians are able to have safe, reliable and efficient travel when we pull out of this pandemic.

COVI Committee Meeting – June 9th, 2020

Meeting Reference

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

Mr. Chair, I'd like to split my time with the member for Hamilton Centre.
Passenger rights in Canada are a joke to this government. Not only does the passenger bill of rights have numerous loopholes, but the system to enforce them is broken. Complaints don't get resolved, and when they do, the Canadian Transportation Agency mostly sides with the airlines.

When will the government stand up for Canadian passengers rather than airlines?

The Chair - Anthony Rota
(Liberal, Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON)

The honourable minister.

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, the Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent body, a quasi-judicial body that does rule on complaints that are sent to it with respect to passenger rights, and they make their own decisions on claims that those rights have not been respected.

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

Mr. Chair, this government must stop playing games with passengers who want to be refunded for a service they can no longer use because of COVID-19.
We see that WestJet is going to refund its customers. So, what are the others doing?
When is the government going to show some backbone and demand refunds for passengers?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I understand the frustration of those who would rather get a refund than a credit.
At the same time, as I mentioned, the airlines have been hit very hard and are making virtually no revenue at the moment. That is why the Canadian Transportation Agency has suggested that they issue credits.

However, I am encouraging airlines to compensate their passengers wherever possible, when circumstances permit.

The Chair - Anthony Rota
(Liberal, Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON)

Ms. Ashton, you have 50 seconds left.

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

Mr. Chair, passengers are having to turn to class action lawsuits to get their money back for cancelled flights due to COVID-19. We know that airlines can issue refunds without going under. WestJet is doing it; why not the others?

When will the government ensure that Canadian passengers get their money back for cancelled flights?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, as I've said, I understand the frustrations of those who would prefer to be reimbursed. At the same time, many airlines have lost just about all of their revenue, and that is why many have adopted a voucher policy. I do encourage the airlines to compensate their passengers to the best of their ability, circumstances permitting.

COVI Committee Meeting – June 1st, 2020

Meeting Reference

Niki Ashton
(NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB)

My question is to the Minister of Transport.

Canadians are being ripped off by airlines that are refusing to give passengers their money back. Airlines are profiting off Canadians during a very desperate time. This government has sat by while the Canadian Transportation Agency issued a statement to back up the airlines' appalling actions. What is this government doing to fix this? Why aren't they ensuring that public funds involve reimbursing passengers and an equity stake for Canadians?

Minister of Transport – Hon. Marc Garneau
(Liberal, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, QC)

Mr. Chair, I certainly recognize the very difficult situation and the frustration of Canadians who would have preferred a refund. At the same time, at this point if airlines were required to immediately reimburse all the cancelled tickets, it would have a devastating effect on the airlines. That is why the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is an independent body, recommended that vouchers be issued and that they have a reasonable time to be used—two years.

It is also very important to bear in mind that as we begin to exit this pandemic, we must still have an airline industry in this country.

Social media comments

Oct. 22
https://nikiashton.ndp.ca/news/qp-mp-ashton-calls-refunds-all-passengers

June 9
https://twitter.com/nikiashton/status/1270454181380403202

June 1 (and criticism of CTA)
https://es-la.facebook.com/MPNikiAshton/videos/mp-ashton-questions-transport-minister-on-reimbursements-for-air-passengers/921641181672450/

May 13th (livestream with consumer advocate from East coast on Facebook about refunds and strategies to recuperate funds)
https://www.facebook.com/AirPassengerRights/videos/1394044134140032/?__so__=permalink&__rv__=related_videos

Feb. 28, 2020 (TRAN cttee question to TC Min about "loopholes" in APPR)
https://www.facebook.com/MPNikiAshton/videos/2877484515649244/

Link to online petition she started to improve APPR (post Jan. 24, 2020)
https://nikiashton.ndp.ca/support-a-passenger-bill-of-rights

Jan. 24, 2020 (letter to TC Min asking to improve APPR)
https://nikiashton.ndp.ca/news/liberals-must-put-needs-canadians-ahead-big-airline-companies-0

Media coverage

Media coverage

Charte des voyageurs: hausse des réclamations pour les vols en région
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Le Journal de Québec (Article available in French only)

Media: Le Journal de Québec
Date: 2020/01/08
Author: Simon Gamache-Fortin

Canada’s New Air Passenger Protection Law Takes Effect

Media: Travel Market Report
Date: 2019/12/19
Author: Diane Taylor

Les avis sur la nouvelle charte des voyageurs sont partagés
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Le Devoir

Media: Le Devoir
Date: 2019/12/16
Author: Michel Saba

Phase II of Air Passenger Protection Regulations Go Live on December 15, 2019!

Media: Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Date: 2019/12/15

PIAC op\ed Canadian Airlines: No Refund = No Bailout

Media: Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Date: 2020/04/18

Last Of Canada’s New Passenger Protections Go In Effect

Media: simpleflying.com
Date: 2019/12/15
Author: Sumit Singh

New air passenger protection rules address delays, cancellations, and compensation
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: CBC News

Media: CBC News
Date: 2019/12/13
Author: Jen White

Règlements sur la protection des passagers aériens : Vol En Retard prête à épauler les voyageurs

Media: Volenretard
Date: 2019/12/10

Airlines fined $45,000 for violating new passenger regulations

Media: CTV News
Date: 2019/09/05
Author: Ryan Flanagan

Editorial - More than 'interesting'
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Charlottetown Guardian

Media: Charlottetown Guardian
Date: 2019/07/22
Author: Rob Oakie (Open Letter)

Editorial: Air passengers' bill of rights is a step in the right direction
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Hamilton Spectator

Media: Hamilton Spectator
Date: 2019/07/15

Ottawa airplane passengers welcome new federal rules

Media: CBC News
Date: 2019/07/16
Author: Yasmine Mehdi

Airline passengers rights are good but they forgot these
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Toronto Star

Media: Toronto Star
Date: 2019/07/16
Author: Doug Smith

Expert: New rules lay out rights of Canadian airline passengers

Media: McGill University
Date: 2019/07/16

Transport aérien: nouvelles compensations pour les voyageurs (Article available in French only)

Media: La Presse
Date: 2019/07/15
Author: Nathaëlle Morissette

Entrée en vigueur de la charte des droits des passagers aériens - CAA-Québec publie un guide unique pour aider les voyageurs à faire valoir leurs nouveaux droits en avion

Media: CAA - Québec
Date: 2019/07/15
Author: Annie Gauthier, Pierre-Olivier Fortin

Le premier volet de la charte des droits des voyageurs aériens entre en vigueur

Media: CAA - National
Date: 2019/07/15

Canada's new air passenger rights rules come into effect

Media: Halifax Chronicle Herald
Date: 2019/07/15
Author: Andrea Gunn

Il était temps, estime CAA Québec
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Le Droit (Article available in French only)

Media: Le Soleil
Date: 2019/07/15
Author: Anne-Sophie Poiré

New Canadian airline passenger rights protection holds airlines to same high standard, says advocate
[Link refers to NewsDesk – available on the CTA network]

Original Story: Toronto Star

Media: Star Halifax
Date: 2019/07/15
Author: Haley Ryan

Air Passenger Protection Regulations Partially Come Into Force: Clear Gains, but Remaining Uncertainty and Additional Delays

Media: Flight Claim
Date: 2019/07/15
Author: Axelle Techer

Entrée en vigueur partielle de la charte des voyageurs

Media: Radio-Canada
Date: 2019/07/14
Author: Jacaudrey Charbonneau

Minister of transport announces new rules protecting Canadian air travellers

Media: Global News
Date: 2019/05/24
Author: Sean O'Shea

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