Updated rules offer Canadian travellers more protection from flight cancellations and delays

New regulations took effect in Canada today that require airlines to provide passengers with either a refund or rebooking, at the passenger’s choice, when there is a flight cancellation, or a lengthy delay, due to a situation outside the airline’s control.

The new rule is an update to the the Air Passenger Protection Regulations formulated by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) in 2019. It applies to all flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.

Until now, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations only required refunds to be provided for flight disruptions within the control of airlines.

The new regulatory requirements:

  • Require airlines to provide a passenger affected by a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to a situation outside the airline’s control with a confirmed reservation on the next available flight that is operated by them or a partner airline, leaving within 48 hours of the departure time indicated on the passenger’s original ticket.
  • If the airline cannot provide a confirmed reservation within this 48-hour period, it is required to provide, at the passenger’s choice, a refund or rebooking;
  • Identify what costs must be refunded (unused portion of the ticket, which includes any unused add-on services paid for);
  • Identify the method to be used for refunds (same as the original payment, e.g., a return on the person’s credit card);
  • Require airlines to provide a refund within 30 days.

“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a gap in Canada’s passenger protection framework, with flights delayed or cancelled due to situations outside an airline’s control and where carriers could not rebook passengers within a reasonable time, like a global pandemic. These new regulations will correct this gap,” said The Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, in a release.

“These new requirements provide clarity around timing, cost coverage, method of payment, and deadlines to refund travellers in such situations.”

While many people welcome the new rules, others are critical of them, saying that they still offer airlines wiggle room to avoid refunding passengers while the airlines themselves think they are being unfairly punished for things they cannot directly control.

Canadian Geographic Adventures will help CanGeo readers discover the world

With a mission on making Canada better known to Canadians and to the world, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is collaborating with  Canadian and international travel partners to draw readers off the pages of Canadian Geographic magazine and into the field through immersive travel.

The Society launched a new venture Tuesday called Canadian Geographic Adventures which features a selection of curated travel experiences that it calls its Designated Travel Collection.

The small-group tours that make up the Designated Travel Collection include multi-day, locally-guided,  experiences in each of Canada’s province and territories and around the world with a strong focus on sustainability and the celebration of people and place.

Each trip hosts a notable RCGS Ambassador, adding incredible insight into the Society and Canadian Geographic, and each travel operator within the Designated Travel Collection supports RCGS programming with a contribution from every booking.

“Geography is a vast, interesting and inclusive paradigm that explores the connections between people and place,” said John Geiger, CEO of the RCGS, in a release. “We aim to further that connection by giving Canadians a chance to experience first-hand the incredible stories we cover in Canadian Geographic magazine through guided multi-day adventures hosted by an RCGS Ambassador and partnered with exceptional operators across the country. This robust offering will form the Designated Travel Collection.”

A selection of experiences from Canadian Geographic Adventures and its Designated Travel Collection include:

More information about Canadian Geographic Adventures can be found at cangeotravel.ca/cangeoadventures.


Travel world hopes Omicron is mild, but scientists warn it’s too early to tell

Omicron variant of COVID

The arrival of the Omicron variant has thrown the travel world into turmoil once again and while everyone wants to believe preliminary reports that the strain may be milder, the truth is that it’s really too early to know.

“The idea that this variant is milder is just pure speculation. There is no reason to think it is,” said Michael Worobey, who heads the department of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona in a CNN report.

In the same report, Dr. William Schaffner, medical director at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University said there simply hasn’t been enough time to know everything there is to know about Omicron.

“There’s a distinction between hopeful and reality. It’s good to hope but it is much too early to conclude that Omicron only produces mild infections. We don’t have those data,” Schaffner told CNN.

Even if it is milder, scientists believe Omicron could be more transmissible and overtake Delta as the most dominant strain which could end up overwhelming healthcare networks through the sheer number of infections.

As long as there remains a large pool of unvaccinated people around the world, the virus will continue to mutate and there are now reports that a “stealth” strain of Omicron may exist that is harder to detect. There is also evidence that the Omicron strain may be more resistant to Pfizer and other mRNA vaccines.

Despite the uncertainty, the travel industry is jumping on the hope that Omicron might just be a blip on the radar which is why investors are eying travel stocks as a buying opportunity.

“We view data coming out of the U.S. as a positive leading indicator for demand trends in Canada heading into the holiday season and 2022,” ATB said in a note to clients.

In the cruise world, news of the new variant hasn’t put a damper on Wave Season, the traditional selling period for the coming year, according to Travel News Report.

“My crystal ball broke about two years ago but I still see an extended wave season,” said Sean Schultz, owner of a Dream Vacations franchise in Daphne, Alabama.  “I don’t see demand dropping off at all. It may be a challenge for where people can go, but the demand is there.”

Despite that optimism, world governments have enacted travel restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.

While scientists in the United Kingdom are criticizing such restrictions as being too late to be useful, there is widespread support for them in Canada, according to a poll reported by the Canadian Press.

“Yes, this variant is concerning. Yes it will likely be more resistant to neutralization. But is this variant a monster? Probably not. ​​The vaccines will work against this variant,” said Marc-André Langlois, a molecular virologist at the University of Ottawa who heads the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network in a CBC report.

“To what extent? That’s the question.”



As an election looms, popular support for U.S. border closure will mean it gets renewed again

Canada-U.S. border crossing

Despite pleas from Canada’s tourism industry and politicians from border states calling on Ottawa to re-open the border with the United States, the closure remains popular with Canadians and with signs of a federal election coming soon, chances are good that it will remain for a while longer.

Federal politicians have been crisscrossing Canada this summer in what is likely a runup to an election in August or September. The ban on non-essential travel with the United States that has been in place since March of last year could be lifted as early as July 21 or it can stay and become an election issue.

In a recent opinion poll conducted for The Globe and Mail, a majority of Canadians want pandemic-related restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border to be lifted by the fall.

The poll found that only 15 per cent of Canadians wanted them removed immediately with another 14 per cent some time this summer. More people, 34 per cent, said they would prefer the fall.

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said that Canada needs a re-opening plan in place before an election or the country risks further delaying its recovery from the pandemic.

“We need this plan today – not after an election. And it needs to be based on medical science, not political science,” he told The Globe and Mail.

The next opportunity to re-open the closure, which has been renewed on a monthly basis since it began, is July 21. In the weeks ahead of that date, various Canadian tourism organizations have been holding near daily press conferences to pressure Ottawa to come up with a re-opening plan.

On Wednesday, they were joined by a coalition of border-state legislators calling on Ottawa and Washington to re-open the border. Even France is asking Canada to let its citizens in.

When asked about the issue during an appearance in Quebec Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister was non-committal, reported Politico.

“The reality is we know how unbelievably costly and heartbreaking it would be to fall into a fourth wave of this pandemic,” he said.

Reports that the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling a rise in cases in the United States among unvaccinated Americans could affect the decision to re-open the border.

“I think it could have an impact on the border reopening,” Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa told Global News. “Trudeau already said unvaccinated tourists are not welcome.”

New Embraer jets will allow Porter Airlines to expand across North America

Porter Airlines Embraer airplane

Toronto-based Porter Airlines has ambitions to expand beyond its current regional routes in eastern North America to become a bigger player across the continent.

It’s being tight-lipped about where those new destinations will be beyond stating they are considering routes in the west, the southern United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. One map of potential destinations includes numerous American destinations such such as Miami and Los Angeles along with much of western Canada.

The expansion will be made possible once they receive delivery by mid-2022 of 80 new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft which have transcontinental range. It will be the first airline to operate these planes in North America.

The aircraft are being acquired by Porter Aircraft Leasing Corp., a sister company of Porter Airlines. The total aircraft order is valued at up to US$5.82 billion at current list prices, with 30 firm commitments and 50 purchase right options.

The ability to convert purchase rights to smaller E190-E2s is included in the agreement. This provides opportunities to introduce non-stop service in markets where connecting flights are often the only option today. It also enables higher-frequency service for routes with greater demand.

Porter intends to operate the E2s to popular destinations from Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“We believe that now is the right time to make this investment as the pandemic resets the aviation landscape. Adding a diverse selection of popular business and leisure destinations to our network means that we are better positioned to serve the needs of many more passengers,” said Michael Deluce, president and CEO, Porter Airlines.

While establishing service at Pearson Airport for the first time, flights from Porter’s existing hub at downtown Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport remain core to its business and will continue with high-frequency regional service on turboprop aircraft. Service is confirmed to restart at Billy Bishop on Sept. 8, following a temporary shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions. The E2s will not operate at this airport.

The E195-E2 accommodates between 120 and 146 passengers.