01/18/2013 12:29 EST | Updated 01/18/2013 12:45 EST

Porter Airlines Passenger Rights: Gabor Lukacs Prompts Change To Airline's Tariff


The way Porter Airlines treats its passengers is about to change, thanks to the efforts of a Halifax mathematician.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), the body responsible for governing the airline industry, disallowed some provisions in Porter's tariffs — the rights and obligations that passengers are entitled to when flying with the airline — after it found the tariff's wording violated the Montreal Convention. The convention is an international agreement designed to protect passengers, and determines the payment passengers can expect from airlines for damages.

Porter must now rewrite their policies on lost baggage and delayed flights so passengers are better informed they will be compensated. The CTA said that the current version of the tariff was "silent" and "unreasonable" and omitted the fact that an airline is legally liable if a flight is late, rescheduled or a passenger's baggage is misplaced. However, the decision also adds Porter will not be held liable if flights are delayed due to factors beyond the airline's control, such as events of disruptive weather.

The ruling comes after Gabor Lukacs, a mathematician and an airlines passengers right activist, brought the case to the CTA last April. Lukacs calls the decision a win for passengers.

"This is a significant gain for passengers, because the tariff (policy) is the blueprint of how the airline is supposed to behave and treat passengers," he told Linda Nguyen of the Canadian Press in an e-mail.

As the Toronto Star reports, Porter has been compensating passengers for years now, regardless of the wording on its policy, but on a "case-by-case basis."

“We’ve actually been operating under the premise for quite awhile [sic] that is essentially in line with the (transport agency) ruling,” Porter Airlines spokesperson Brad Cicero told the Star.

“What we do is provide compensation for delays on a case-by-case basis," said Cicero, adding that the airline has handed out things like meals and travel vouchers as forms of compensation in the past.

This isn't the first time a Canadian airline has had to amend its obligations to passengers. A few years ago, Lukacs filed a complaint against Air Canada and WestJet — and won both times, according to the Chronicle Herald.

In the case of Air Canada, the CTA ordered the airline to replace the rules surrounding international baggage after the company said it wasn't responsible for items like money or the jewelery in the checked luggage of passengers on certain flights.

For WestJet, the agency ruled that its $250 cap for luggage remeasurement was not high enough, and mandated the airline increase the payment to $1,800.

Porter now has less than 20 days to revise the wording used in its tariff.

With files from the Canadian Press

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