What passengers need to know about delays and cancellations

Be aware that delays and cancellations are often complex. What happened and what you are entitled to can sometimes only be confirmed after your travel journey is over, after contacting the airline, or after making a complaint to the Agency.

Your rights

When an airline delays or cancels a flight, what you are entitled to depends on the level of control that the airline has over the reason for the delay or cancellation. The situation can either be:

  • within the airline's control
  • within the airline's control but required for safety
  • or outside the airline's control

Communication

In all situations, the airline has to give you information about:

  • why your flight was delayed/cancelled
  • what assistance they have to give you, if any
  • the compensation you may be entitled to for your inconvenience, and
  • what recourse is available to you, including your options with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA)

Any new information has to be communicated by the airline as soon as possible.

During a delay, the airline must provide regular flight status updates every 30 minutes until a new departure time has been confirmed or until the passenger has been rebooked.

Assistance
(food and drinks, access to means of communication and hotel or other accommodation)

The airline must provide assistance, if:

Assistance includes:

  • food and drinks in reasonable quantities
  • access to means of communication, like Wifi or a telephone, and
  • hotel or other accommodation, and transportation to/from the hotel or other accommodation, IF the delay or cancellation requires you to wait overnight

Rebooking and refunds

The airline must always ensure that you complete your itinerary as soon as possible. In all situations, the airline has to rebook you on another flight if your original flight is delayed for 3 hours or more or is cancelled. The details of the new flight depend on the reason for the delay or cancellation and the size of the airline.

In certain situations, you may be entitled to a refund.

Situations within the airline's control
(for example, a commercial decision to consolidate or cancel flights because of low demand)

Summary of rebooking and refunds for situations within the airline's control

Alternate travel arrangements (Rebooking)

Large airlines

Large airlines* must rebook you on their next available flight, or on a flight of an airline with which they have a commercial agreement. The new flight:

  • must take any reasonable route out of the same airport to your destination, and
  • must depart within 9 hours of your original departure time

If the airline cannot rebook you within 9 hours, they must rebook you, as soon as possible, on a flight operated by any airline. The new flight:

  • must take any reasonable route out of the same airport to your destination. This may mean buying a ticket for you on a competing airline, and
  • must depart within 48 hours of your original departure time

If the airline cannot rebook you within 48 hours, the airline must rebook you on a flight operated by any airline, taking any reasonable route from a nearby airport to your destination. They will also have to transport you to that airport, free of charge.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of large airlines include Air Canada (including Jazz and Rouge), WestJet, Sunwing Airlines, Air Transat, and Flair Airlines.

Small airlines

Small airlines* must rebook you on their next available flight or on the flight of an airline with which they have a commercial agreement. The flight must take any reasonable route from the same airport to your destination. Small airlines do not have to rebook you with an airline with which they do not have a commercial agreement.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of small airlines include Canada Jetlines, Canadian North, and Porter Airlines.

Refunds — If the alternate travel arrangements offered don't meet your travel needs

If an airline (large or small) offers you alternate travel arrangements that do not meet your travel needs, you are entitled to a refund.

If you are no longer at your point of origin

If your trip no longer serves its purpose because of the delay or cancellation, and you're no longer at your point of origin (for example, you are at a connecting point), then the airline (large or small) must rebook you on a flight back to your point of origin that accommodates your travel needs, free of charge, and refund the entire ticket (as if no part of the trip had been made).

Situations within the airline's control but required for safety
(for example, a mechanical malfunction)

Summary of rebooking and refunds for situations within the airline's control but required for safety

Alternate travel arrangements (Rebooking)

Large airlines

Large airlines* must rebook you on their next available flight, or on a flight of an airline with which they have a commercial agreement. The new flight:

  • must take any reasonable route out of the same airport to your destination, and
  • must depart within 9 hours of your original departure time

If the airline cannot rebook you within 9 hours, they must rebook you, as soon as possible, on a flight operated by any airline. The new flight:

  • must take any reasonable route out of the same airport to your destination. This may mean buying a ticket for you on a competing airline, and
  • must depart within 48 hours of your original departure time

If the airline cannot rebook you within 48 hours, the airline must rebook you on a flight operated by any airline, taking any reasonable route from a nearby airport to your destination. They will also have to transport you to that airport, free of charge.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of large airlines include Air Canada (including Jazz and Rouge), WestJet, Sunwing Airlines, Air Transat, and Flair Airlines.

Small airlines

Small airlines* must rebook you on their next available flight or on the flight of an airline with which they have a commercial agreement. The flight must take any reasonable route from the same airport to your destination. Small airlines do not have to rebook you with an airline with which they do not have a commercial agreement.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of small airlines include Canada Jetlines, Canadian North, and Porter Airlines.

Refunds — If the alternate travel arrangements offered don't meet your travel needs

If an airline (large or small) offers you alternate travel arrangements that do not meet your travel needs, you are entitled to a refund.

If you are no longer at your point of origin

If your trip no longer serves its purpose because of the delay or cancellation, and you're no longer at your point of origin (for example, you are at a connecting point), then the airline (large or small) must rebook you on a flight back to your point of origin that accommodates your travel needs, free of charge, and refund the entire ticket (as if no part of the trip had been made).

Situations outside the airline's control
(for example, weather conditions that make it impossible to safely operate the aircraft)

Summary of rebooking and refunds for situations outside the airline's control

The airline (large or small) must rebook you on its next available flight or on the flight of an airline with which it has a commercial agreement. The flight must depart within 48 hours after your original departure time. If the airline cannot rebook you within 48 hours, the airline must, at your choice:

  • Provide a refund; or
  • Make alternate travel arrangements, free of charge. The details of the new flight depend on the size of the airline, as follows.

If you chose alternate travel arrangements

Large airlines

Large airlines* must rebook you on a flight operated by any airline. The new flight must take any reasonable route out of the same airport or from a nearby airport to your destination. In that case, they will also have to transport you to that airport.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of large airlines include Air Canada (including Jazz and Rouge), WestJet, Sunwing Airlines, Air Transat, and Flair Airlines.

Small airlines

Small airlines* must rebook you on their next available flight or on the flight of an airline with which they have a commercial agreement. The flight must take any reasonable route from the same airport to your destination. Small airlines are not required to rebook you with an airline with which they do not have a commercial agreement.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of small airlines include Canada Jetlines, Canadian North, and Porter Airlines.

If you chose a refund and you're no longer at your point of origin

If your trip no longer serves its purpose because of the delay or cancellation, and you're no longer at your point of origin (for example, if you are at a connecting point), then the airline (large or small) must rebook you on a flight back to your point of origin that accommodates your travel needs, free of charge, and refund the entire ticket (as if no part of the trip had been made).

Compensation for inconvenience

This ONLY applies for delays and cancellations fully within the airline's control.

The airline must pay you compensation for your inconvenience if:

  • the delay or cancellation is fully within the airline's control (NOT within the airline's control but required for safety or outside the airline's control)
  • you were informed of the delay or cancellation 14 days or less before your original departure time
  • you arrived late at your final destination by 3 hours or more, and
  • you filed a request for compensation in writing with the airline within 1 year of the delay or cancellation

Compensation levels

The amount of compensation owed depends on how late you arrived at your final destination and on the size of the airline.

Large airlines* must pay you:

  • $400 if you arrive late at your destination by 3 hours or more, but less than 6 hours
  • $700 if you arrive late at your destination by 6 hours or more, but less than 9 hours
  • $1,000 if you arrive late at your destination by 9 hours or more

If you choose to be refunded instead of rebooked, large airlines must still pay you $400.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of large airlines include Air Canada (including Jazz and Rouge), WestJet, Sunwing Airlines, Air Transat, and Flair Airlines.

Small airlines* must pay you:

  • $125 if you arrive late at your destination by 3 hours or more, but less than 6 hours
  • $250 if you arrive late at your destination by 6 hours or more, but less than 9 hours
  • $500 if you arrive late at your destination by 9 hours or more

If you choose to be refunded instead of rebooked, small airlines must still pay you $125.

*The size of the airline is listed in the terms and conditions of your ticket (the airline's tariff). Examples of small airlines include Canada Jetlines, Canadian North, and Porter Airlines

Compensation for delays while travelling internationally

If you are travelling on an international itinerary, you may also be entitled to make a claim under the Montreal or Warsaw Conventions for any damages — such as expenses — that happened because of the delay. You must make these claims with the airline in writing.

Passenger recourse
(if you are not satisfied or did not receive a reply from the airline)

If you are not satisfied with the airline's response to your complaint or request for compensation, or have not received a response from the airline within 30 days, you can ask the CTA to review the case.


Related content

Flight Delays and Cancellations: A Guide explains passenger rights and airline obligations if there is a flight delay or cancellation on a flight to, from or within Canada, including connecting flights. This guide also provides tips for managing common flight delay or cancellation situations.

Types and Categories of Flight Disruption: A Guide explains the three categories of flight disruption included in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations: situations within the airline's control; situations within the airline's control but required for safety; and situations outside the airline's control.

This is not a legal document. The explanations it provides are for information purposes only. Airline obligations can be found in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations.  Airlines must also follow:

In case of differences between this document and legislation or regulations, the legislation and regulations prevail.

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