What happened to defending air travellers?

What wasn’t in the Throne Speech

Whatever seemed to be suggested ahead of Parliament’s return, not one of the 147 bullet points in Wednesday’s Throne Speech referenced the plight of air travellers and so yesterday, the NDP’s Annick Papillon asked the government to explain exactly what it was planning to do to help air travellers. In response, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt suggested Ms. Papillon was speculating.

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what information the member opposite has, but as we have always said, one should never speculate what will be in the Speech from the Throne. Indeed, one waits for the speech and reads it at that point in time. What I can tell the House is this. We have great connections with both airlines and airports, and I do hear from consumers across the country. We have constructive dialogues on all of these issues. At the end of the day, the consumer can turn to the Canadian Transportation Agency with individual complaints regarding the airlines.

You might forgive Ms. Papillon if she was expecting to hear something in the Throne Speech. Possibly she was just listening to the Industry Minister and assumed that he was talking about the Throne Speech.

Here is what James Moore told CTV in an interview that aired on Sunday.

FIFE: What about the airlines? Are we going to be looking, we’re hearing some talk about perhaps an airline bill of rights to deal with some of the very frustrations that travellers have in dealing with airlines, being bumped, for example.

MOORE: Yeah. You know, when we put together a list of things that frustrate consumers on which the government can take action, the list gets long very quickly. Some of these things, of course, are taken care of in the free market. I’m a free marketer, free enterprise guy. But in other circumstances they can’t be and responsible government action is needed. With regard to air passengers, you know, I think people find it incredibly frustrating when they go to board a flight, a plane that has 165 seats, and an airline chooses to sell 175 seats in order to cover their margins in case people don’t show up. And people who have paid for their ticket show up at the gate, go through security, arrive on time, and they find that their ticket has been sold twice and that somebody else is occupying their chair and they have to get rebooked, sometimes missing a wedding, missing a funeral, and having their business life interrupted. That’s not fair to consumers, it’s not fair to travelers and we are looking to take action on that front as well.

And here is what Mr. Moore told Global in an interview that aired the same day.

Tom Clark: You know a lot of other things have been talked about as well under this general umbrella of consumerism, an airline passenger’s bill of rights for example and lowering those credit card costs. Are we going to see any of that?

James Moore: Yeah you know credit card fees for small business, in particular those who operate along the border, those in rural communities, small-medium size businesses they’re getting hit pretty hard with credit card fees. Jim Flaherty is looking at options for us to move forward to protect small business. But for sure…and on air passengers. Look you know I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than when somebody gets up at 6 o’clock in the morning, drives to the airport, parks their car, pays the fees, goes through the gauntlet of security, goes to the gate, gets there and the airline has sold 175 tickets for 165 seat plane and people get bumped to a flight a few hours later or the next day and they miss a wedding or they miss a funeral, or they miss a job opportunity. That can’t happen anymore and we’re going to move to protect consumers.

And here is what Mr. Moore told the CBC.

“I’m a free enterprise, free market guy. But, when airlines are selling 175 seats on a 165-seat plane and 10 people show up and they’re turned away for a ticket that they paid for, for a seat that they paid for — they played by the rules and airlines just treat consumers that way. I think people get frustrated and they expect action, and we plan to act,” he said.

After the Throne Speech, Mr. Moore told iPolitics that this matter of overbooking was never meant to be included in the Throne Speech. But does Ms. Raitt share Mr. Moore’s concerns and is the government still interested in acting on this front? According to Ms. Raitt’s office, Ms. Raitt “has heard from her constituents, and shares their concern.” and “the Government will be looking to take action on a number of consumer protection measures.”

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