What you need to know about delays, cancellations and missing baggage

Find out what you should do, and what your rights are

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Government of Canada — Travel Advice and Advisories

Know your rights

If you experienced a problem, you must first contact your airline to resolve it. If that does not work, you can file a complaint with us. The CTA processes complaints and settles disputes between travelers and airlines. 

There are three types of rules the airlines must follow

  1. The rules set by the CTA in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations that cover flights to, from and within Canada, including connecting flights.
  2. The rules set by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Montreal Convention.
  3. The rules set out by the airlines in their terms and conditions listed in their Tariff, which is the contract between you and the airline when you buy a ticket.

Airlines have obligations to follow the rules about:

Flight delays and cancellations

In the event of a flight delay or cancellation, the airline must:

  • inform you about your rights and the remedies available;
  • provide the reason for the disruption; and
  • give regular status updates during delays.

Depending on the reason for the flight delay or cancellation, an airline has minimum obligations to passengers that could include standards of treatment, rebooking or refunds, and compensation for inconvenience.

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 Lost, damaged or delayed baggage

You must submit a claim in writing with the airline:

  • within 7 days after receiving your damaged baggage
  • within 21 days after receiving your delayed baggage for travel on an international itinerary
  • as soon as possible for delayed baggage for travel on a domestic itinerary
  • as soon as possible for baggage that is considered lost

Failure to submit a claim within the set time limits could result in the carrier denying your claim.

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 Denied boarding (Bumping)

Denied boarding happens when there are fewer seats available on a flight than there are passengers who have checked in and arrived at the gate on time for boarding and are in possession of valid travel documentation.

Bumping does not include situations where a passenger must be refused transport for reasons such as not having a valid passport or arriving late at the gate.

Depending on the reason for the denied boarding, an airline has minimum obligations to passengers that could include standards of treatment, rebooking or refunds, and compensation for inconvenience.

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 Tarmac delays

A tarmac delay at departure begins after the doors of the aircraft are closed for take-off. A tarmac delay on arrival begins after the flight has landed.

Passengers have specific rights in a tarmac delay situation. Airlines must provide them with certain amenities while they wait on board the aircraft.

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 Refusal to transport

As a passenger, you must:

  • Comply with domestic and foreign travel requirements, and have appropriate and valid travel documents to travel within Canada, to enter a foreign country or to return to Canada, including proof that you meet any requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic. There may also be additional passenger health screening required upon arrival in Canada. For more information, please consult Transport Canada’s website and Travel.gc.ca or the Canada Border Services Agency's website.
  • Not behave in a way that interferes with the flight or puts the safety of passengers and crew at risk; and,
  • Not miss the airline's deadlines to:
    • Check in;
    • Complete the travel document verification process;
    • Register your baggage;
    • Pass through the security screening checkpoints; and,
    • Arrive at the boarding gate.
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 Clear communications

Clear and timely communication of accurate information to passengers is critical to ensuring a positive passenger experience. Airlines must:

  • inform you of their policies on delays, cancellations, denied boarding, lost or damaged baggage and the seating of children in a simple, clear way;
  • inform you about your rights and the remedies available;
  • provide the reason for a flight disruption in plain language without technical jargon;
  • provide regular status updates during delays; and
  • make sure that communication is accessible to persons with disabilities.
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 Accessible transportation

Persons with disabilities have a fundamental right to an accessible federal transportation network.

We can help with concerns and complaints related to the accessibility of:

  • flights to, from, and within Canada, including connecting flights;
  • rail, ferry and bus carriers that operate between provinces or territories or between Canada and the United States;
  • airports, rail stations and ferry terminals located in Canada; or
  • services integral to the transportation services provided by an airline or terminal located in Canada.

For more information about the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations, visit the Canadian Transportation Agency's Accessible Transportation page.

File a complaint:

Accessibility complaints about transportation services

"" Human rights and discrimination

The CTA works together with other federal agencies that have a human rights mandate, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to ensure that human rights related complaints be dealt with efficiently and expeditiously by the most appropriate organization.  

If you file a complaint with the CTA that involves a human rights issue experienced during your air travel, such as discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity or expression, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination and the CTA is not in a position to deal with it, the CTA may officially, or informally with your consent, refer your complaint to the most appropriate organisation.  

"" Airline customer service departments

Airline customer service issues such as food quality or staff courtesy are generally outside the purview of the CTA. If you have this type of issue, please contact your airline:

Airline customer service departments.

If you believe the airline's customer service issue has impacted your rights under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, you can file a complaint with the CTA. If you believe it has impacted your right to accessible travel, you can find more information or file a complaint on the CTA's Accessible Transportation page.

 Seating of children under 14 with parent or guardian

Airlines must, at the earliest opportunity and at no extra cost, take steps to seat children under the age of 14 beside or near their parent, guardian or tutor, depending on their age.

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 Unaccompanied minors

Some airlines accept unaccompanied children aged 5 to 11 years and will escort them from check-in through to their arrival at the destination airport (usually for a fee). Be sure to consult your airline's terms and conditions before booking a flight for an unaccompanied minor.

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 Transportation of musical instruments

Airlines must include in their tariffs the terms and conditions of carriage regarding the transportation of musical instruments as checked or carry-on baggage. This includes:

  • weight, size and quantity restrictions;
  • cabin overhead bin or under seat storage options;
  • options in the event of aircraft downgrading; and
  • fees for transporting musical instruments.

Please consult your airline's tariff for transporting musical instruments.   

Reference: Airline obligations for transportation of musical instruments are set out in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations

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Airlines sometimes charge fees in order for passengers to change their flight and travel dates.

The availability of fares and flights continually changes. They are never guaranteed until you have paid in full.

Any time you buy an airline ticket, you should carefully review the details.

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A reservation is a record of the flights booked with your airline. Having a reservation does not automatically entitle the passenger to travel. When the airline receives payment, it issues a ticket linked to that reservation, which allows the passenger to travel.

You should carefully review the details of your reservations.

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 All-inclusive air price advertising

Advertising through any media must display air prices in an all-inclusive format for travel within or originating in Canada.

Air price advertising directed at the public must include the total price (including a breakdown of all taxes, fees and charges) and a description of the air service offered.

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 Other air traveller rights and information