In its weekly self report card about progress in reducing airport chaos in Canada, Ottawa announced new funding to help clear a backlog of consumer complaints.
As Open Jaw reported last week, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) says it is bogged down by a growing pile of air passenger complaints brought on by a summer of travel chaos.
In an ironic twist, airline and airport delays, cancellations and baggage issues have at least partially been attributed to staffing issues, and the CTA says its own backlog in addressing consumer complaints about those very problems is partially due to its own labour shortages.
According to the regulator, the backlog of complaints grew to more than 15,300 in MAY, and has since risen further.
It reportedly takes the CTA around 19 business days on average to resolve a complaint once it reaches a staffer’s desk. However, by its own admission, complaints can take about a year before being processed by CTA staff, with case numbers continuing to climb.
Last week, the CTA said it was trying to hire more facilitators who can help resolve customer complaints against airlines.
In its 18AUG weekly progress report, the federal government announced it was putting its money where its mouth is in supporting “the rights of travellers.”
It revealed it’s topping up the CTA’s budget by an additional $11 million this year “to make sure the CTA has the resources it needs to enforce the rules,” and help the agency “to deal with passenger disputes in a more timely manner.”
More Consumer Complaints Expected
Bolstering the resources of the CTA comes short weeks before new air traveller protection regulations take effect, which could trigger a tidal wave of new pax claims and complaints.
Air Passenger Protection Regulations currently mandate compensation for passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled due to incidents within an airline's control.
The government and the CTA have made it clear that includes crew shortages, which has been a contested issue this summer, with reports of airlines denying compensation on that basis.
Whether or not crew shortages are within or outside an airline’s control will soon be irrelevant when it comes to passenger compensation.
New regulations taking effect on 08SEP state that passengers must be compensated for delays and cancellations for situations even outside of an airline's control.
While airlines are pushing back against the new rules, their protests appear to be falling on deaf ears in Ottawa, which has taken a strong stand in support of ‘passenger rights.’
“The Government of Canada strongly encourages Canadians to know their rights when they travel by air under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations,” the government’s statement says.