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Fri, Sep 12, 2008

CAPBOR Asks -- If Canada Can Have Passengers' Rights, Why Not US?

Hanni Says Some Aspects Of Measure Stronger Than Stalled Bill

The founder of a group dedicated to seeing a passengers bill of rights come to fruition for US flyers commended the Canadian government Thursday on its efforts to enact just such a measure.

As ANN reported Friday, Canada's "Flight Rights" program builds on a 2007 amendment to the Canada Transportation Act that requires domestic airlines to prominently display terms and conditions of carriage at their business offices and on their websites. The measure also creates an informal complaints process within the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Critics to Canada's plan says it doesn't go far enough... but Kate Hanni, founder of the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights, notes the Canadian measure is more comprehensive than even the European Union regulations, and specifically addresses "strandings" by allowing passengers to deplane after a 90 minute tarmac delay, with the option to re-board the plane.

"If it's good enough for Canada, why isn't it good enough for America?" asked Hanni, adding she assisted Woodrow French -- the Mayor of Town of Conception Bay South, who first proposed the bill -- and House of Commons officials on background for the bill. "Now it is time for Congress to act!"

Hanni said that under the new law, Canadian airlines will also be required to provide stranded travelers with updated flight delay and schedule change information, and meal and hotel vouchers for extended delays of four and eight hours respectively.

Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon announced the program, nicknamed "Flight Rights" at a press conference in Ottawa earlier this week. The bill received unanimous support in the House of Commons.

"The House of Commons has 308 members. Our Senate has 100. Canada was able to get 308 members to agree on a common sense law to protect their flying public in less than eight months. Our coalition has been working with Congress for sixteen months, and we can't even get a majority to agree. This underscores the degree of partisan politics and the enormous influence of big airlines with deep pockets on our system," said Hanni.

Passengers' rights legislation has been stalled in Congress primarily due to disagreements among members on funding for air traffic control modernization and related programs. Most of that legislation gives the airlines up to three hours to give passengers the right to deplane -- twice the 90 minutes now required by the Canadian law.



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