Canada’s New Air Travel Rules: What To Do When Your Flight Is Overbooked Or Changed

The new Air Passenger Bill of Rights came into force in part on July 15th this year. That bill contains new regulations regarding what you can do as an air travel passenger when your flight is cancelled or delayed. As part of the bill, however, there are also rules concerning overbooked flights or a change of aircraft. Those rules differ to the ones about cancellation and will offer varying compensation amounts. Still with us? Good. Here’s what to do when your flight is overbooked or changed:

When this will happen

If you’re denied boarding because the flight is full, but you have a completely valid travel document with you, then you’ve been denied boarding due to overbooking. In most cases, this is completely the airline’s fault, and you’ll be entitled to compensation. In addition, if the aircraft for your flight is changed because of maintenance and the new aircraft is smaller than the original, you’ll be entitled to compensation then, too.

How much you’re entitled to

Unlike compensation due to cancellation or delay, the amount you’re entitled to as a result of overbooking or change of aircraft doesn’t vary from airline to airline. All airlines are required to pay you the same amount, and it’s calculated entirely based on how much of a delay you’re subject to. Here are the delay compensation tiers:

  1. Between 0 and 6 hours’ delay: C$900 minimum
  2. Between 6 and 9 hours’ delay: C$1800 minimum
  3. Over 9 hours’ delay: C$2400 minimum

The airline must pay you this compensation when they notify you that you’ve been denied boarding. If the airline can’t pay you prior to the flight’s departure, then they must pay you within 48 hours.

What standards of treatment you can expect?

Just like when your flight is cancelled or delayed, the airline has a duty of care which they must fulfill. When your flight is overbooked or the aircraft changes and you’re subject to delay, the airline must provide the following:

  1. Adequate food and drink
  2. Electronic means of communication (WiFi or similar)

In addition, the airline has to ensure accommodation if an overnight stay is needed. This accommodation must be a hotel or equivalent, and the airline must also provide transport to your accommodation wherever it may be. All of this must be paid for by the airline, so you’re not required to pay a penny.

The rebooking process

Again, as with delayed or cancelled flights, the airline must work hard to rebook you on its next available flight. If there isn’t one, larger airlines must book you on a flight of a competitor. If the rebooking wouldn’t satisfy - i.e. you wouldn’t have a reason to travel anymore - then you’re entitled to a full refund of your ticket plus minimum tier compensation.

What about tarmac delays?

Good question. Tarmac delays don’t offer any form of compensation, but there are rules here too. Airlines can’t keep you on the plane for more than 3 hours and 45 minutes. That’s a 3-hour baseline and an extra 45 minutes if the plane is likely to take off during that time frame. While you’re stuck on tarmac, you must have access to the following:

  1. Working lavatories
  2. Proper ventilation and cooling
  3. Food and drink
  4. The ability to communicate with people outside the plane free of charge (if possible)