Air Passenger Rights president Gabor Lukacs says the federal government is failing to hold airlines accountable amid what he describes as “shady corporate behaviour.”

This comes as Canada’s aviation sector is in a state of chaos due to long lines at airports, flight cancellations and delays as well as lost baggage. 

As previously reported by True North, passengers are entitled to compensation of up to $1000 if their flight is delayed or cancelled due to a circumstance that is within the airline’s control.

However, Air Canada and Westjet have been refusing to compensate certain passengers who have been subject to delays. Air Canada even claimed that staffing shortages are a safety issue, which makes it exempt from having to provide compensation.

Lukacs decried the practice, telling True North that “presenting crew shortage as safety is fraudulent. That is breaking the law.”

He also said that the federal government has not been holding airlines accountable.

“The Canadian Transportation Agency’s job would be to enforce the law. They can issue very hefty amounts of penalties to airlines on top of what they owe passengers. And they’re not doing that,” said Lukacs.

Lukacs claims few reported violations committed by airlines have resulted in fines being handed out.

The lack of enforcement by the federal government is problematic according to Lukacs, because it condones a disregard for the rule of law by airlines.

“If there are no real consequences for breaking the law, if it’s not going to hit their bottom line, why should they comply with the law?” He said. “There’s no incentive for airlines to comply with the law.”

The Canadian Transportation Agency is currently facing a backlog of over 18,000 cases, hence Lukacs says Canadians should use other means to hold airlines accountable.

“Passengers who face… problems should take airlines to small claims court.” 

While a current issue, Lukacs says accountability for airlines from the federal government began going downhill in 2013.

Canadian Transportation Agency spokesperson Martine Maltais told True North that its members “strictly decide cases based on the evidence entered into the record of proceedings (that parties had an opportunity to comment on) and by applying the law.”

She also said that “no side discussions take place with the industry with respect to cases before the CTA” and that a number of safeguards are in place to ensure independence and impartiality.

Air Canada and Westjet did not respond to True North’s request for comment in time for publication.