If you plan to board a plane in the near future, pack your patience, travel insurance policy, and a notebook.
While stranded air passengers can rely on travel insurance to cover some costs related to flight disruptions and baggage delays, in Canada they also often have to argue their case for refunds and compensation from airline staff. and airports. This is when taking detailed notes can come in handy, according to one consumer expert.
Documenting your trip — by keeping detailed logs and receipts — can help you claim reimbursement in the event of travel disruptions, said air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs.
Record queues, flight delays and cancellations at Toronto Pearson International Airport and other major Canadian air travel hubs have recently tested passenger endurance. Airlines, airports and agencies that handle customs and security checks are all struggling to replenish their staff in the face of the country’s labor shortages and growing travel demand.
And while insurance may cover some costs related to travel disruption, reimbursement and compensation for flight delays, cancellations, and lost or damaged baggage is usually the responsibility of the airlines. But amid accusations and chaos, Canadians often face bureaucratic and legal battles to recoup expenses from broken travel plans. Canada’s ill-conceived and poorly enforced air passenger protection rules aren’t helping, Lukacs adds.
Under the country’s Air Passenger Protection regulations, Canadians may be entitled to compensation of $125 to $1,000, in addition to a free rebooking, for flight delays or cancellations that are deemed to be within the control of the airline and not related to safety. For travel disruption due to denied boarding caused by overbooking, compensation can reach up to $2,400.
But barring overbooking, consumers must proactively seek compensation and often demonstrate their eligibility for it based on Canada’s complex Air Passenger Protection Regulations, according to Mr. Lukacs, who is president of Air Passenger Rights, a non-profit.
According to Lukacs, this routinely leaves consumers asking questions such as whether a crew constraint causing a flight disruption was within the airline’s control.
But the fact that air carriers as well as customs and border security agencies are all grappling with staff shortages makes it even more difficult for passengers seeking compensation to assess where airlines’ responsibilities lie, he added.
One of the thorniest issues currently facing passengers is demonstrating that they did not miss a flight because they did not show up at the airport early enough, which would even prevent a refund, according to travel experts.
That’s why Lukacs recommends keeping a close eye on your airport experience. A taxi voucher or parking receipt can help prove that you arrived early enough. Logs from receiving your boarding pass or checking your baggage can help determine whether it is a staff shortage at the airline check-in counter or later at customs or security that held you back, he added.
Travel insurance will also help contain personal expenses. A trip cancellation and interruption policy will not reimburse you for a canceled flight, but may cover all or part of the non-refundable costs of hotel nights, pre-booked excursions and activities you will miss because you didn’t leave when you were supposed to, said Matt Hands, director of insurance at Ratehub.ca, an online financial product comparison site.
Another important feature of cancellation and interruption coverage: If your luggage is delayed, many policies include compensation for the replacement of essential items while you wait for your luggage, noted Martin Firestone, president of insurance brokerage. TravelSecure Inc.
Although insurance won’t reimburse you for the full cost of lost luggage, being able to purchase toiletries and clothing at no extra cost could make a significant difference to your holiday, said Mr Firestone, who has said he recently used his baggage insurance benefited from a nearly three-day delay on his luggage while traveling in Greece.
Keep in mind that cancellation and interruption coverage is often sold separately or in addition to travel medical insurance, which pays for unforeseen medical expenses during your travels. And it can be expensive. Mr. Firestone estimated that the cost is usually between 7% and 10% of the total trip.
Still, the current air travel chaos offers “probably more evidence than ever of the importance of travel insurance”, Mr Hands said.
While it doesn’t provide coverage in all scenarios, “at least you know you have some sort of financial compensation and recourse options,” he added.
Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing news straight to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Register today.