News / Toronto

United Airlines incident: What are your rights when you fly?

What you need to know about what you're entitled to when flying.

Passengers sleep on the floor of Pearson Airport after an ice storm caused flight delays and cancellations in this file photo from 2013.

Canadian Press file

Passengers sleep on the floor of Pearson Airport after an ice storm caused flight delays and cancellations in this file photo from 2013.

It takes being bumped from a flight to a new level.

A video of a man dragged screaming from an overbooked United Airlines plane recently went viral, raising questions about passenger rights.

But it’s not the only recent case of a paying customer being kicked off an airplane. Last week a Toronto couple were booted from their flight to Miami after it was overbooked.

As the summer travel season approaches, Metro breaks down your rights when it comes to air travel.

Overbooked and bumped from your plane

Whether you volunteer or are voluntold to get off a flight you’ve paid for, the airline owes you compensation, air passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs told Metro.

“They also have to rebook you on the next flight, including on flights of other airlines if they don’t have flights of their own within a reasonable time,” Lukacs said.

Exactly how much you’re entitled to is stated in the airline’s “tariff” which outlines its contractual obligations to passengers.

Air Canada’s tariff, for example, says in the case of overbooking the airline will ask for volunteers to re-book in exchange for compensation. How much is at their discretion.

If no volunteers are found, someone will be selected.

The amount of compensation depends on where the flight is going, and the number of hours the person is delayed.


Flight delayed or cancelled

Canada doesn’t have an air passenger bill of rights, which Lukacs calls “part of the problem.”

In the European Union you are entitled to compensation of up to $850 (CAD) if you’re bumped for overbooking or the flight is delayed or cancelled for more than three hours. That’s on top of reimbursement for hotels and meals caused by delay.

If you’re travelling internationally you’re covered under the Montreal Convention, and eligible for compensation under that treaty.

Luggage lost or damaged

Under the Montreal Convention you’re again entitled to some reimbursement for lost or damaged luggage when travelling internationally, said Lukacs.

Domestically it falls to individual airline tariffs but all the major Canadian airlines have language on this.

It can be hard to make sense of the fine print, though.

Passengers shouldn’t be having to do it,” said Lukacs, who argues for more consumer-friendly legislation like the EU Turkey and Israel have.

“Canada is very much behind the rest of the Western world,” he added.

“We are backwards.”

If you still have a complaint with an airline, you can file a grievance with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).

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