More Cheers for Maloway

As an early booster of Jim Maloway’s private member’s bill, I am delighted to see it already achieving some results.

Yesterday’s Globe reported that the airlines have countered by giving “new enforcement powers to CTA to serve as the industry watchdog on a range of consumer issues. They include ensuring airlines provide meal vouchers for four-hour delays, pay for hotel rooms for overnight disruptions, rebook bumped passengers and let travellers off the plane if stuck on the tarmac longer than 90 minutes.”

But they are still balking at the proposed financial penalties: “Where is the equity in paying a customer who purchased a $99 ticket to Florida $1,200 in compensation?” I suppose that’s a fair point, but when have airlines ever refunded the $99?

Perhaps it’s appropriate for compensation to be based on the ticket price. If you order a pizza and it is delivered late, it’s free. If you book a Niagara airbus and it arrives late, you get your money back. Via Rail’s compensation for late trains is also proportionate to the ticket price.

Another point that seems to be missing from the debate is that the main purpose of financial penalties is not to make airlines pay, but to make them provide better service. After passengers have paid for their tickets, airlines currently have no immediate financial incentive to not leave them waiting around in the airport or on the tarmac.

Maloway’s bill tries to provide an incentive for airlines to strive to minimize delays, provide prompt notification when a delay does occur, and let embarked passengers off the tarmac if the delay persists. The airlines might be correct that “the compensation requirements are grossly punitive,” but the goal is to foster a level of service in which passengers would almost never be owed such compensation.

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