passenger rights

Passenger Rights


The Travel Rights Movement

In May 2017, the Trudeau government introduced legislation for a bill of rights, dedicated to airline passengers. The premise was to set a national standard for the way that airlines treat Canadian passengers. The passenger bill of rights aims to inform travellers of the compensations or services they are entitled to when their travel arrangements are interrupted by incidents within the airline’s control.1


The passenger bill of rights aims to inform travellers of the compensations or services they are entitled to. Click To Tweet


More recently, Congressman Rick Nolan introduced a bill this month, titled “The Airline Consumer Bill of Rights Act.” If passed, it will require U.S. airlines to give passengers a document, written in comprehensible language, stating the passenger rights. Presently, passengers must go through 37,000 pages of text to locate their rights and the airline’s policies.

“As we saw with the horrific United Airlines incident where a passenger was forcibly removed after he was seated on an aircraft, there is an urgent need for airlines to be transparent and inform consumers of their rights,” said Nolan. “With the holiday travel season approaching, this legislation is a crucial step forward in ensuring consumers’ safety and convenience – not just in an extreme scenario like the United Airlines incident – but also in dealing with everyday problems of baggage fees, flight cancellations, and lost baggage.”2

So, what are your passenger rights?



Airline Passenger Rights: What to expect?

My flight is overbooked. What are my passenger rights?


Airlines will often overbook their flights to compensate for passengers who will cancel their fare at the last minute, or simply won’t make the flight.

When this happens in Canada, an airline must first ask for volunteers who are willing to take a later flight. If there are no volunteers, or if more are needed, the airline will then begin to involuntarily bump passengers. They will do so based on the boarding priorities outlined in the carrier’s tariff. 


An airline will bump passengers based on their boarding priorities


If the airline bumps you off a flight, ask them to help you find a seat on the next available flight at no additional cost. But keep in mind that this is not obligation.  Also, some carriers’ tariffs state that passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding are owed compensation. So, don’t be shy to ask the airline for reparation.3

In the US, the Department of Transportation (DOT) obligates airlines to inform any potential volunteers whether they would be involuntarily bumped if no volunteers were to come forward. They also must inform them of the amount of compensation they would receive if they are involuntarily bumped.


Passenger RightsYou will have a compensation and a seat on a later flight, If you choose to voluntarily give up your seat. However, before giving up your reservation, make sure that you will have a confirmed seat on the next flight (as opposed to being on standby).  Don’t forget to ask about extra amenities, such as free meals or hotel room. You don’t need to spend any extra cash above everything else!


When you are involuntarily bumped off your flight, you are owed compensation.To discover the exact amount you’re owed, check out our article, Why You Might Get Bumped Off a Flight.



The airline cancelled my flight. Do I have any passenger rights? Are they going to compensate me?


In Canada, your airline should inform you if they delayed, cancelled, or changed the schedule of your flight. Carriers are also accountable for any damages you incur. That’s it if they can prove they took measures to prevent them, or that it was out of their control.

Airlines will also usually arrange substitute transportation to get you to your destination. If they are not able to find alternate transportation, you might receive a refund for the unused part of your fare 3.


Don’t be afraid to speak with your airline about compensation.


In the US, there are no federal requirements concerning flight delays. If your flight is experiencing a significant delay, try arranging another flight. (Tip: over the phone is usually easier than at the airline counter). However, make sure you won’t have to pay a cancellation fee or an increased fare for changing flights. If you find an alternate flight on another airline, ask your airline to validate your ticket to the new airline. But remember: there is no rule that forces them to endorse your ticket.  

After cancelling your flight, most airlines will re-book you on their next available flight, at no additional cost. However, if the alternate flight includes a lengthy delay, try finding another flight with an alternate carrier.


Most airlines will re-book you on their next available flight, at no additional cost. Click To Tweet


As well, every airline has their own policy concerning the services it offers to delayed passengers. So, it doesn’t hurt to ask the airline staff if it will pay for meals or other amenities.4



Your Baggage is Delayed, Lost or Damaged 

Passenger rights

In Canada, if you end up incurring expenses due to delayed or lost baggage, which you feel the airline is responsible for, you can file a claim for compensation through the airline. Make sure to include an itemized list of your lost or damaged items, as well as their value. Or, you can also provide a list of expenses that you paid out-of-pocket to replace or repair your items.

As well, it’s important to note that airlines have specific deadlines for submissions of claims concerning mishandled bags. If your baggage is delayed or lost, you must file your complaint with the airline within 21 days of the date you should have received your baggage. For damaged baggage, fill a claim within 7 days. If you do not file a written complaint within these deadlines, the airline has no obligation to reimburse you.3


For damaged baggage, fill a claim within 7 days.


In the US, if your bag does not arrive to your destination, report this to the airline staff. Insist that they create a report and provide you with a copy. Airlines have varying amounts of compensation that they can offer passengers for emergency purchases. The amounts vary depending on whether you are away from home and the time necessary to recover your bag. If the airline staff is unable to give you cash in advance, keep all receipts for reimbursable items. You might be able to receive compensation later. If your baggage is permanently lost, you will have to file a claim. Contact your airline and find out the deadline for submitting your claim. They will usually refer you to a central office where you will begin negotiation with them.

If your baggage is damaged, the airline will often pay to repair the item. If it cannot be fixed, they will pay a negotiated amount.4


We are here to help you

All in all, if you’re ever in a situation where you’re uncertain and don’t know your passenger rights, never hesitate to ask your travel vendor for assistance or some form compensation. And if you made your reservations through a corporate travel management company, you can always reach out to them as well for assistance and to understand your passenger rights.




  • CBC News: Passenger bill of rights will set national standard for air travel by Peter Zimonjic
  • Congressman Rick Nolan for the Eighth District of Minnesota: Nolan Introduces Legislation Requiring Airlines to Provide Travelers with a One-Pager Consumer “Bill of Rights” (Press Release)
  • Canadian Transportation Agency: Fly Smart: From point A to point B and home again
  • US Department of Transportation: Aviation Consumer Protection


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