Passenger rights: What you should do if you’re stranded on a plane

Bookmark and Share

Change text size for the story


Report an error

Airline passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says air travellers have many rights when things go wrong, but the rules governing those rights just aren’t being enforced.

When an airline seeks permission to operate internationally, it creates a document known as a tariff, Lukacs says. The tariff addresses a wealth of issues relating to the both the airline and passengers that “are not merely recommendations.

“These are binding — whatever is in the tariff is very much legally binding on the airline,” the Halifax-based Lukacs says, adding that it is the Canadian Transportation Agency that is charged with enforcing those rights.

The federal agency has launched an inquiry into why passengers were forced to spend hours on two Air Transat jets that were diverted to Ottawa last week from Montreal because of severe weather.Passengers spent six hours trapped aboard one plane on the tarmac; several passengers called 911 after the plane ran out of drinking water and fuel, leaving it without air conditioning. One person was treated on the plane and passengers were given bottled water.

Postmedia spoke to Lukacs Monday about what passengers can do should they find themselves in a similar situation.

Q:Is 90 minutes the minimum amount of time that a passenger has to waitbefore they can ask to leave the aircraft?


(According toAir Transat’s tariff:“If the delay exceeds 90 minutes and if the aircraft commander permits, the Carrier will offer passengers the option of disembarking until it is time to depart.”)

Q:In situations such as last week’s, what can passengers do? Should they call 911?

A:Absolutely, yes. I think that was a very good idea and I would encourage passengers to do that in the future. The airline has no right whatsoever to keep you confined to the aircraft for that long, and if you want to disembark also make sure that (you) tell the airline that you would like to disembark and pull out a copy of the airline’s terms and conditions and politely and respectfully show it to the airline employees. Advise them that if they are not going to let you off that you will be calling 911.

Q:Should passengers also be tweeting for help?

A:Absolutely. Social media was very important here. I would also suggest taking out your cellphones and begin to record. Even if airline employees tell you you cannot,keep recording. Don’t worry about it. You do have the right to record, especially when you are in a dire situation. Don’t let the airline get away with it.

Q:What should passengers do after they have experienced an incident like this one?

A:When something like this happens, take the airline to court after the incident. Make sure that it costs the airline money to do what they have done to you.

Q:Why take the airline to court after?

A:Airlines are not going to change their behaviour just because it’s the right thing to do. We live in a world where airlines will change course if the financial cost of following a different course or staying on a current course is too high. With litigation you can make sure that there is a public image cost to the airline, there is a financial cost for litigation, there is potentially a risk for a bad case law for the airline. When you combine all of this, it’s important to attach a price tag for not following the rules.

Q:Would the passengers stranded in Ottawa be entitled to monetary compensation for being kept orhours on the plane?

A:There are two separate issues for which passengers can and should seekcompensation from Air Transat. The first is the delay. The flight’s destination was Montreal, but it departed fromwithin the EU.Since the delay was over three hours, Air Transat owes monetary compensation(in cash, not vouchers), and since the delay was over four hours on a transatlantic flight, Air Transatowes 600 euros per passenger —again, in cash. Secondly, breach of contract/being confined to the aircraft for a long time: The amount of compensation is to be determined by a court. But I suspectthat a Quebec small claims court judge would award at least $1,000 perpassenger for this, possibly more.

More information is available

strandedonaplane Passengerrights
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

A ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward by eight years to 2032, MPs have said. The government's current plans to ensure all new cars are "effectively zero emission" by 2040 were "vague and unambitious", a report by Parliament's business select committee said. It also criticised cuts to subsidies and the lack of charging points. The government said it aimed to make the UK "the best place in the world" to own an electric vehicl...
London area home sales fell 15.9 per cent in September from August because of a shortage of homes to sell, and that shortage of inventory helped push up prices by 20 per cent from a year ago, the head of the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) said. In September, LSTAR reported 776 homes changed hands in London and St. Thomas, compared to a near-record August, when 923 homes were sold. By the numbers Homes sold in September: 776 (a drop of 6....
Radical preacher Anjem Choudary, jailed for inviting support for the Islamic State group, has been released. The cleric was sentenced in 2016 to five-and-a-half years in prison. He led an extremist network linked to violent jihadists, including one of the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013. Choudary, 51, has now served half of his sentence and will complete the rest under strict supervision. Police are preparing up to 25 measures to control him, the BBC...
One of London's front-running mayoral candidates has already put 40 per cent more of his own money into his campaign than the $25,000 limit allowed by law, a move that could put him in jeopardy if he wins the top job, provincial and civic election officials say. One of London’s front-running mayoral candidates has already put 40 per cent more of his own money into his campaign than the $25,000 limit allowed by law, a move that could put him in jeopardy if...
Nearly 150 County of Lambton paramedics are no longer responding to non-emergency calls amid ongoing negotiations for a new contract. Job action as of last Saturday means Lambton County paramedics won’t be doing non-urgent transfers between hospitals for the next while, or keeping ambulance stations as neat and tidy, a union spokesperson says. Nearly 150 Lambton Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics represented by SEIU Healthcare Local 1 stopped resp...
Clapham Junction has been named London’s worst mainline train station for disruption in a survey by leading consumer title Which? Fifty-seven per cent of trains have been late or cancelled at the south London interchange since the beginning of the year, their research found. Their study found King’s Cross was the second worst, with 51 per cent of trains delayed or cancelled, followed by Victoria (47 per cent), Stratford (44 per cent) and London Bridge (44...
Tube drivers on the Piccadilly Line are set to hold fresh 24-hour strike action in a row over staffing and working conditions. The RMT Union has urged members to walk out at 12:00 BST on 7 November until noon the following day - writes The union's general secretary Mick Cash said it had become "frustrated" with Tube bosses' handling of a "full raft of issues". Transport for London (TfL) said it was "disappointed" with the new strike. Drivers on the...
The Tate and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) are calling for a premium to fund arts classes in England's schools. The major arts institutions say league tables and pressures on time and budgets are squeezing out important creative subjects - writes Six thousand 11 to 18-year-olds have described how the subjects help build their confidence, in new research. The government says it is investing almost £500m in arts and music. Creative subjects hav...
Five teenagers have been jailed for fatally stabbing a man in an unprovoked attack as he returned home from an appointment with his pregnant partner. Daniel Frederick, 34, was knifed repeatedly by the group just yards from his home in Stoke Newington, Hackney. Three teenagers were convicted of murdering Mr Frederick while another two were found guilty of manslaughter. They were jailed at the Old Bailey for a combined total of at least 64 years. Judge Phili...