A new report reveals that air passenger complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) have reached another high.
That's despite Ottawa injecting millions in funding to the CTA to help hire more agents to process a growing number of complaints about airlines - and the tabling of new rules that are intended to strengthen air passenger protections.
The Western Standard reports that the backlog of complaints at the CTA has reached a new record of over 55,000.
When called to report on the backlog to the House of Commons in MAY, the CTA's CEO revealed that backlog at that time stood at what was then a record 46,000.
That's despite Ottawa boosting funding to the CTA by millions. As Open Jaw has reported, the federal government has twice over the last year boosted funding to the CTA by millions to hire new staff to tackle the growing backlog of consumer complaints. The most recent injection of cash to the CTA was in MAR, as Open Jaw reported, with the government providing the CTA $76 million over three years to hire 200 new workers - solely for the purposes of allowing the agency to clear the backlog of airline passenger complaints.
Last year, the CTA reportedly received a total of just over 42,000 complaints - that's up nearly 300% from 2021, when the number was just over 12,000. The CTA has said it processes 10-15,000 complaints a year. It's now estimated that a complaint to the CTA will take up to two years to be processed.
Under the current process, a passenger that has experienced a disruption makes a claim with the airline first. If the airline disputes the claim, the passenger then has the option to file with the CTA for its help in resolving the dispute.
Rather than diminishing, the backlog of complaints continues to grow - indicating ongoing poor performance by airlines and, since no complaint goes to the CTA unless the airline disputes a passenger claim, airlines' reluctance to accept responsibility and compensate pax according to federal rules.
Both the government and consumers have responded to the situation at the CTA.
On their part, CBC News reports, more consumers, frustrated by the CTA complaint process and its long delays, are bypassing it altogether and taking airlines straight to court for compensation for disrupted travel and lost baggage.
In the spring, after bolstering the CTA's claim processing budget by tens of millions of dollars, Ottawa proposed new federal legislation designed to further strengthen air passenger rights. The new rules provide for "automatic" compensation that doesn't require affected passengers to even make a claim. They also put the onus on airlines to resolve disputes before they even get to the CTA, in an attempt to prevent the airlines from benefitting from a backlog or prolonged process at the CTA leading to affected pax abandoning claims.
The proposed new air passenger protection regulations are expected to be in place by the end of the year, according to the Globe.
But, despite new government rules and CTA funding, as well as growing vocal support for air passengers among legislators and consumer advocates, a decrease in air passenger complaints in the near future is by no means guaranteed.
The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the air industry’s challenges of less stringent air pax protection regulations from 2019. If that challenge is successful, new - even stricter - rules outlined recently by the feds may not be able to mandate better - or quicker - compensation for passengers affected by below par airline performance.