top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Moot Times UCalgary Law

What to Know When Your Flight is Delayed

Contributed by: Ryan Morstad

Have you recently gone through a terrible delay while traveling? Did you know Canada has legal protections for air passengers? The Air Passenger Protection Regulations (“APPR”) came into force on July 15, 2019, with the aim of compensating passengers burdened by unnecessary airline delays. 

As with other businesses, airlines can struggle with operational inefficiencies or planning failures. Due to the oligopolist nature of Canadian airlines (Air Canada and WestJet dominate the skies), customers are at a disadvantage when it comes to addressing these issues. Dissatisfied passengers cannot simply “take their business elsewhere” by flying with a different airline. Competitive market forces cannot function properly in industries dominated by few providers. Therefore, airlines can be enticed to make a decision that makes them more money but leaves you stranded. 

As a brief example, let us say you are a passenger flying from Victoria to Calgary. For this example, say there are three flights a day: one at 8:00 a.m., one at noon, and one at 10:00 p.m. If the 8:00 a.m. flight has not sold enough seats, the airline may be tempted to cancel this flight and move you to a later flight. This way the airline would make the same amount in fares but save the cost of the additional flight. This is great for the airline and terrible for the passengers, who now face a significant delay. The profit temptation for the airline, however, is clear. 

The APPR outlines three categories of delay, each giving rise to different compensation and obligations on the airlines. The categories are situations: 

  1. Outside carrier’s control;

  2. Within carrier’s control; and

  3. Within carrier’s control but required for safety purposes. 

The first category, delays caused by factors outside of the airline’s control, such as weather, are not compensable. The second category gives rise to rebooking and monetary compensation; and the third, somewhat nebulous, category provides no monetary compensation to passengers, but does oblige the airline to provide food, accommodations, and a means of communication. 

When a passenger encounters a delay or cancellation, the airline is required to tell passengers the reason for the delay. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly due to asymmetrical access to information, airlines may wish to categorize delays as “required for safety purposes” or “outside of the carrier’s control,” as the APPR does not provide a fulsome definition of which circumstances may fall under these categories. Passengers would therefore be wise to submit an official request for APPR compensation. These form submissions should be accessible through the airline’s website. The airline is required to respond to these requests and include the reason for the delay. If the passenger is denied compensation, and believes that the cause of delay should be categorized as within the airline’s control, they may request a review of the decision through the Canadian Transportation Agency, or they may initiate a claim through their province’s “Small Claims” Court. 

Compensation due to delay when within the airline's control is based on the total amount of time that the passenger arrived after their original ticketed arrival time. 

Large Airlines

Delay in arrival time

Compensation due

3-6 Hours


6-9 Hours


> 9 Hours


Small Airlines

Delay in arrival time

Compensation due

3-6 Hours


6-9 Hours


> 9 Hours


Passengers flying to or from Canada would be wise to know their rights in the event of cancellation or delay. Though these regulations require greater clarification and interpretation, they will benefit from the developing case law in this area. With many students heading home for the summer break shortly, I wish you happy travels!

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Logo PNG.png
bottom of page