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Canadian airlines ask appeal court to quash new passenger rights rules

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MONTREAL — Canadian airlines are among hundreds of carriers asking the Federal Court of Appeal to quash new rules that beef up compensation for passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc., along with 17 other applicants that include the International Air Transport Association — which has some 290 member airlines — state in a court filing that required payments under the country’s new air passenger bill of rights violate international standards and should be rendered invalid.

The court application argues the new provisions contravene the Montreal Convention, a multilateral treaty, in part by setting compensation amounts based on the length of the delay and “irrespective of the actual damage suffered.”

The application, filed last Friday, also says nullifying the regulations “would avoid the confusion to passengers” who could be subject to travel regimes from multiple jurisdictions on international flights.

Starting July 15, passengers will have to be compensated up to $2,400 if they are denied boarding because a flight was overbooked and receive up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage. Compensation of up to $1,000 for delays and other payments for cancelled flights will take effect in December.

The issue came to the forefront after a 2017 incident in which two Montreal-bound Air Transat jets were diverted to Ottawa due to bad weather and held on the tarmac for up to six hours, leading some passengers to call 911 for rescue.

John McKenna, who heads the Air Transport Association of Canada, called the compensation grid “very high” and the new rules “outrageous.”

“They’re trying to meet international standards and do better, and I don’t see why. We’ve been complaining about that from the start, that this is going to drive up the price of flying in Canada,” he said from Portugal.

Passenger rights advocates say the rules do not go far enough, arguing the criteria for monetary compensation are tough to meet as passengers would have to present evidence that is typically in the hands of an airline.

Gabor Lukacs, founder of the group Air Passenger Rights, has said the regulations give airlines “carte blanche to refuse” compensation based on unverifiable maintenance issues.

The rules impose no obligation on airlines to pay customers for delays or cancellations if they were caused by mechanical problems discovered in a pre-flight check — walking around the aircraft before takeoff looking for defects in the fuselage and flight control surfaces — rather than during scheduled maintenance — more thorough inspections required after 100 hours cumulatively in the air.

AirHelp, a Berlin-based passenger-rights company, has said the number of issues categorized as outside an airline’s control amounts to a long list of ways to avoid compensating passengers.

The court application, which Air Canada said was initiated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), argues the new compensation rules “breach Canada’s international obligations and exceed the regulation-making authority” of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

“Aviation is a global industry and as such, regulations need to be harmonized and follow the Montreal Convention,” IATA spokeswoman Mona Aubin said in an email.

Lukacs challenged that assertion, saying it “was already hashed out in the European Court of Justice and was rejected.”

“IATA does not understand that in Canada, international treaties have force only to the extent that they are incorporated in law,” he said.

Lukacs also shot down the notion that overlapping regulatory regimes would sew confusion. “If you fly, say, KLM from Toronto to Amsterdam, then both can apply and you can just pick and choose.”

The application for judicial review also argues the distinction between large and small carriers — defined by annual passenger numbers and bearing on compensation amount owed — amounts to “differential treatment…without any statutory authorization for such discrimination.”

The Canadian Transportation Agency said it will respond with a court filing by July 8, but declined to comment on the case.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

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US$1 billion in 67 seconds and other numbers to know

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Singles’ Day in the world’s most populous country has become a mammoth marketing event for China’s e-commerce businesses that have turned it into the world’s biggest online shopping extravaganza.

Singles’ Day, which originated on university campuses in Nanjing, China in the 1990s, became an annual shopping bonanza after Alibaba, China’s biggest e-commerce retailer, made it into an event a decade ago.

This year’s sales surpassed last year’s record, with two of the country’s largest online retailers reporting combined sales of more than US$63 billion, even before final numbers were reported. The eye-popping figures make Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. seem somewhat anemic and humdrum by comparison. Alibaba posted live updates on its website and on Twitter, but for the very keen, the company also provided a real-time sales counter.

Singles’ Day by the numbers:

1. Singles’ Day takes place on November 11, because the number one and the date, 11/11, looks like a single person.

2. Alibaba said sales by merchants on its platforms totalled 268.44 billion yuan (US$38.38 billion) by midnight local time, handily surpassing last year’s total of US$30.8 billion.

3. Alibaba said the number of delivery orders exceeded 1.042 billion in 18 hours and 31 minutes; surpassing the 2018 total.

4. Alibaba said sales exceeded US$1 billion just 1 minute and 7 seconds after midnight on November 11, and surpassed US$10 billion after 29 minutes and 45 seconds.

5. In the U.S. in 2018, Black Friday brought in US$6.2 billion last year, and US$7.9 billion on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Analytics.

6. Alibaba rival, JD.com, reported sales of 179.4 billion yuan ($25.6 billion) by mid-afternoon, according to The Associated Press.

7. More than 200,000 brands from over 200 countries and regions were expected to participate in this year’s event; only 27 brands participated in 2009.

8. A once-informal day, a countdown gala leading up to Singles’ Day that included a performance from Taylor Swift was broadcast on nearly 30 online streaming platforms and TV channels.

9. Online shopping makes up 19.5 per cent of Chinese consumer spending, compared with about 11 per cent for American consumers, according to The Associated Press.

10. Alipay said it set a record on Singles’ Day in 2017 for most payment transactions, processing 256,000 payment transactions per second, just 5 minutes into Singles’ Day; 1.48 billion transactions were ultimately processed over the course of 24 hours.

11. China’s State Post Bureau is expected to handle 2.8 billion packages from Nov 11 to 18, according to state-run press agency Xinhua.

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OpenText snaps up cloud security firm Carbonite in $1.42 billion deal

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OpenText, the Waterloo-based enterprise cloud information management company, announced Monday that they have reached a deal worth US$1.42-billion to acquire Carbonite, Inc, a Boston company that does cloud data protection and endpoint management.

OpenText chief executive Mark Barrenechea said that part of the reason why he likes Carbonite is because it gives an opportunity to sell to 300,000 small businesses and 7 million individual professionals.

“This acquisition will further strengthen OpenText as a leader in cloud platforms, complete end-point security and protection, and will open a new route to connect with customers, through Carbonite’s marquee SMB/prosumer channel and products,” Barrenechea said in a news release.

The deal of US$23 per share for the Boston-based Carbonite is a 25 per cent premium to the close of trading Friday. OpenText will pay $800 million in cash with the total transaction including debt valued at US$1.42 billion.

OpenText shares were up 2.3 per cent and Carbonite were up 24 per cent in morning trading.

Historically, Opentext has focused most of its efforts on the largest enterprise clients.

Speaking to investment analysts, Barrenechea said it will likely take around 18 months to fully integrate the company into OpenText.

The company has a long history of growing through acquisition; OpenText spent nearly US$3 billion between 2013 and the beginning of 2017, including the US$1.62 billion acquisition of Dell EMC, the company’s enterprise content management division.

As of September 30, Carbonite had $405 million in trailing twelve-month revenue.

• Email: jmcleod@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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Keystone pipeline restarted after breach in North Dakota

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The owner of the Keystone pipeline says the line has returned to service after a breach that leaked an estimated 1.4 million litres of oil in northeastern North Dakota late last month.

TC Energy Corporation says the move follows the approval of its repair and restart plan by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which ordered the line shut until the Canadian company completed corrective action.

The company says it will operate the pipeline at a reduced pressure with a gradual increase in the volume of crude oil moving through the system.

The line, which began operating in 2011, is designed to carry crude oil from Alberta across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri on the way to refineries in Patoka, Ill. and Cushing, Okla.

The spill affected about 2,090 square meters of land near Edinburg, N.D.

TC Energy says it continues to work closely with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality as it investigates the cause of the breach.

“We appreciate the cooperation and support from local officials, emergency response personnel and commissioners in Walsh County, as well as the landowner who has granted permission to access land for assessment, repair and clean-up activities,” TC Energy said in a statement on Sunday.

“We also want to recognize the continued efforts of our crews, contractors and businesses in the community for their around-the-clock support, which has allowed us to respond quickly and safely to this event.”

The company adds it is communicating plans to its customers and will continue working closely with them as it begins to return to normal operating conditions.

It said on its website that it has observed no significant impacts to the environment.

The pipeline spill and shutdown come as the company seeks to build the US$8-billion Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oilsands oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas.

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