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Air Travel Complaints Triple In Canada

The number of people who complained about their experience with Canada's airlines has more than tripled over the past year.

Air travel complaints have risen to more than 42,000, creating a sizable backlog for Canada’s transportation regulator that oversees the industry.

The Canadian Transportation Agency says that each case needs more than a year and a half to process, raising questions about the system’s efficiency.

Complaints in Canada totalled 13,400 as of March 31, 2022. However, those complaints shot up over the last 12 months, reaching 36,000 in January of this year before rising another 17% over the last two months.

The federal government in Ottawa has responded to the situation by allocating $11 million in new funding to the Canadian Transportation Agency in last year’s federal budget.

Only a week ago, Ottawa announced an additional $76 million in funding for the regulator to increase staff and clear the complaints backlog.

The agency’s workforce has grown to 343 employees from 298 a year ago. Yet the backlog of complaints continues to grow.

Critics say the backlog is due to a lack of competition in Canada’s aviation industry, gaps in the country’s air passenger rights charter, and an ineffectiveness on the part of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

While the regulator has been issuing more fines to Canada’s airlines, they amount to a small fraction of the carriers’ revenue.

Fines on Canada’s airlines and airports reached $645,630 over the last 12 months, more than double the $253,975 in fines issued in the previous 2021-22 fiscal year.

However, the fines issued last year amount to less than 1% of Air Canada’s (AC) $16.56 billion in revenue last year.

The majority of fines stem from airlines such as Air Canada and privately held WestJet refusing to refund air travellers when their flight has been cancelled or rescheduled.

Multiple studies show that Canada has more flight delays and cancellations than any other developed country.