Interpretation Note: Air Carrier Signage Requirements for Public Inspection of Tariffs
Table of contents
The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) is the economic regulator of the federal transportation industry. It publishes Interpretation Notes to provide information and guidance on provisions of the Canada Transportation Act (Act) and associated regulations administered by the Agency. Should there be any discrepancy between the content of an Interpretation Note and the content of the Act and associated regulations, the latter will prevail.
The purpose of this Interpretation Note is to assist air carriers in meeting their obligations in respect of the prominent display of air carrier tariff signage and the public’s right to inspect tariffs. It also contains useful information for airport authorities about the legislated duty imposed on their air carrier tenants.
Air passengers in Canada are entitled to readily available information regarding their contractual rights with respect to air transportation services. Consumers have the right to know the terms and conditions of carriage applicable to their transportation, the obligations/rights of air carriers and their own obligations/rights with respect to the services they have purchased.
To support consumer awareness of the rights as air travellers and to help ensure transparency and accountability, air carriers are obligated to make their terms and conditions of carriage (tariffs) readily available to the public. Air carriers must also prominently display signs at their business offices indicating that their tariffs are available for public inspection.
III. Legislative References
Subsection 55(1) of the Act defines the following terms:
- "Air service" means a service, provided by means of an aircraft that is publicly available for the transportation of passengers or goods, or both.
- "Tariff" means a schedule of fares, rates, charges and terms and conditions of carriage applicable to the provision of an air service and other incidental services.
Section 2 of the Air Transportation Regulations (ATR) defines the following terms:
- "Air carrier" means any person who operates a domestic or international [air] service.
- "Business office" with respect to an air carrier, includes any place in Canada where the air carrier receives goods for transportation or offers passenger tickets for sale, but does not include an office of a travel agent.
Paragraph 67(1)(a) of the Act states that the holder of a domestic licence shall:
- display in a prominent place at the business offices of the licensee a sign indicating that the tariffs for the domestic service offered by the licensee, including the terms and conditions of carriage, are available for public inspection at the business offices of the licensee, and allow the public to make such inspections.
Subsections 116(1) and (2) of the ATR, for international transportation, state that:
- every air carrier shall keep available for public inspection at each of its business offices a copy of every tariff in which the air carrier participates that applies to its international service.
- every air carrier shall display in a prominent place at each of its business offices a sign indicating that the tariffs for the international service it offers, including the terms and conditions of carriage, are available for public inspection at its business offices.
IV. About Tariffs
Who is required to have a tariff?
- Every air carrier that offers publicly available air services and sells air transportation for travel to/from and within Canada must have a tariff.
What is a tariff's purpose and function?
- A tariff, as the contract of carriage between an air carrier and passengers, establishes the rights and obligations of the parties and must contain an air carrier’s fares, rates, charges and terms and conditions of carriage applicable to the air service provided and other incidental services.
A tariff outlines the air carrier’s policies with respect to its terms and conditions of carriage. For instance, a tariff:
- establishes an air carrier’s limits of liability;
- states the circumstances when an air carrier may refuse transportation to passengers;
- limits the amount of free baggage; and
- establishes check-in time limits.
- A tariff also informs the passenger of the contractual responsibilities of the air carrier and establishes and legally limits those responsibilities.
- The air carrier must respect the terms of its tariff. The tariff is enforceable by the Agency.
V. The Requirements to Prominently Display Tariff Signage and Make Tariffs Available for Public Inspection
As described in the sections to follow, the Act and the ATR require that domestic and international air carriers display a sign in a prominent place at their business offices, indicating that their tariff(s) is available for public inspection.
The ATR defines a business office as any place in Canada where the air carrier receives goods for transportation or offers passenger tickets for sale, but does not include an office of a travel agent.
The Agency considers that the following places constitute an air carrier’s business office:
- Airport terminal where an air carrier operates
- City Ticket Office (CTO)
- Air Carrier website
Prominent Placement of Signs
The objective of the tariff signage requirement is to ensure that the public is made aware of its right to inspect an air carrier’s tariff. To achieve this objective, air carriers must prominently display a sign at each of their business offices.
With respect to airport terminals, the Agency considers this obligation to have been met where there is a reasonable probability that a passenger will be able to read the sign, which should be placed in close proximity to these locations within the terminal:
- Ticket purchase locations
- Baggage drop off locations (includes check-in counters where baggage is tendered).
An air carrier may have multiple locations within an airport terminal where tickets are sold, where goods/baggage are tendered for carriage, or where additional ticketing services are provided to passengers by the air carrier. In order for the signage to be prominent, multiple signs may be required depending on the size of the airport terminal. Air carriers must display as many signs as needed to meet the objective of the signage display requirement.
A variety of means are available to air carriers to prominently display signs. The most suitable means to efficiently and effectively convey the information to passengers may differ from one location to another.
An air carrier may work individually to ensure signs are displayed at the appropriate locations. However, as some airport authorities maintain control over the type of signage that may be displayed throughout an airport, air carriers are encouraged to work with airport authorities where they operate to meet the Agency’s signage requirements. With the cooperation of an airport authority, it may be possible to meet the signage needs of all air carriers within a single initiative.
Agency Communications Code
All signs should conform to the Agency’s Code of Practice: Removing Communication Barriers for Travellers with Disabilities (Communication Code), which provides information with respect to the positioning, font, colour contrast, and format to use for signage in all public areas. Agency codes of practice, including the Communication Code, are developed in consultation with industry and persons with disabilities and associations that represent them. They reflect minimum standards that transportation service providers are expected to meet.
Recommended Wording for Signs
The Agency has developed and strongly encourages the use of sample signage templates. Below is an example of one of the Agency’s downloadable signage templates:
(Terms and Conditions of Travel)
Regulations administered by the Canadian Transportationn Agency require that an air carrier's tariff be available for your inspection upon request.
Tariffs may also be available on your carrier's website.
Consult your air carrier for further information.
(Conditions de voyage)
Les règlements administrés par l'Office des transports du Canada prévoient que les tarifs d'un transporteur aérien doivent être accessibles, sur demande, aux fins de consultation.
Les tarifs peuvent également être disponibles sur le site Web du transporteur.
Consultez votre transporteur aérien pour obtenir de plus amples renseignements.
Considerations When Developing a Sign
Should carriers choose not to use the Agency’s sample signage templates, they must develop their own signage taking into account all applicable legislative and regulatory requirements, as well as the Agency’s Communication Code.
In addition, it is the carrier’s responsibility to determine and comply with any applicable language requirements.
Air carriers may consult with the Agency regarding any signage requirements.
Below are various sign types that could meet legislative requirements for prominent display at a carrier’s business offices. For clarity, some sign types that are not recommended by the Agency are also noted below.
Recommended Sign Types
- Permanently installed hardboard signs
- Signage text displayed above ticket/check-in/baggage counters on Flight Information Display Systems (FIDs)
- Signage text displayed at self serve check-in kiosks on display screens, including Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), Light Emitting Diode (LED), Plasma or other formats
- A sign on rollers
- Two sided, lollipop stand
Non-Recommended Sign Types
Tent cards, posters, etc. are not recommended forms of signage as they can be easily removed, misplaced or lost and therefore less likely to remain prominently displayed.
The requirement for signs to be prominently displayed is a continuing obligation of air carriers and verification of this requirement is part of the on-going inspection program of the Agency.
The public has the right to review an air carrier's tariff and carriers must ensure that they can readily do so upon request. Air carriers must keep a current paper and/or electronic copy of their tariff(s) at each of their business offices (which includes airport terminals) available for public inspection.
In larger terminals, additional copies of a carrier’s tariff may be required at multiple locations to ensure that tariffs are readily available to the public. Tariffs should be available for inspection in the general vicinity of the displayed signs. At a minimum, passengers should be provided with easy access to the carrier’s tariffs near the following locations:
- Ticket purchase locations
- Baggage drop off locations (includes check-in counters where baggage is tendered).
This requirement can also be met by providing access to either paper or electronic version of their tariffs via computer terminals. An air carrier which sells transportation on its website is also required to prominently post its terms and conditions on its website for access by the public. Therefore, an air carrier could meet its requirement for making the tariff available for public inspection simply by having a link to its website available on a computer at its business office.
Often, advising a passenger that the tariff is available for inspection on the air carrier’s website is sufficient to address the needs of the passenger. However, this does not relieve the air carrier from making the tariff available for inspection on site, if requested by a member of the public.
To meet these obligations, it is the carrier’s responsibility to ensure that their front line staff is aware of the existence of their tariff(s) and how to promptly locate it/them upon request.
VI. Agency Authority
It is within the Agency's authority to determine whether:
- tariffs are available for public inspection;
- signage has been prominently displayed at an air carrier’s business office;
- text on the sign clearly indicates that the carrier’s tariff, including the terms and conditions of travel, is available for public inspection; and,
- signage meets the Communication Code with respect to persons with disabilities.
During periodic inspections of carriers, the Agency’s Designated Enforcement Officers (DEOs) verify whether carriers have met the signage requirements. DEOs work with air carriers, in cooperation with airport authorities, to foster compliance.
Non-compliance may result in administrative monetary penalties of up to $10,000 per contravention.
In addition to these responsibilities, the Agency’s authority over tariffs also extends to the following issues:
- The requirement for air carriers to prominently post their terms and conditions of carriage (tariffs) on their websites which sell transportation to/from or within Canada, and
The resolution of complaints from consumers, air carriers and the industry (e.g. tour operators, travel agents) respecting tariffs, including whether:
- an air carrier has respected the terms of its tariff and, when it failed to do so, to order the air carrier to pay the passenger out of pocket expenses and to apply its tariff as written, and;
- the tariff is clear, reasonable or not unduly discriminatory.