The federal government moved this week to bolster accountability at airports, introducing new legislation that would compel them to cough up more information on their performance.
Tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday, the bill paved the way for new rules requiring airports and other airport operators to create service standards and publish data that can be compared against those benchmarks.
The standards could track outcomes ranging from security screening wait times to how long it takes luggage to reach the carousel.
“It’s no secret that the challenges of the last few years have impacted transportation systems here in Canada and globally. As we head into another busy travel season, we have seen how a disruption at one end of the system can have effects across the entire network,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a release.
“Together, the measures in this proposed legislation will help create a more accountable, transparent and accessible national transportation system that meets the needs of Canadians.”
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It is not clear from the bill whether violations of the service standards would be penalized.
Arriving just before the House rises for the summer, the legislation also comes as air travel ramps up for the summer after a year of airport chaos and flight delays during busy travel seasons.
Last month, the National Airlines Council released a report calling on Ottawa to implement “shared accountability” in aviation, with the goal of smoother travel — and across-the-board responsibility for flight disruptions.
The proposals landed precisely three weeks after the House of Commons tabled legislation to overhaul passenger rights. Post-pandemic travel turmoil last summer and over the winter holidays prompted the Liberal government to lay out sweeping changes to Canada’s passenger rights charter in an effort to tighten compensation loopholes and toughen penalties.
The airline council recommendations include strikingly similar language to that of Tuesday’s legislation around imposing “service standards” on industry players, which range from airports to Nav Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.
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“They may have internal key performance indicators … but there’s no accountability for them. There’s certainly no public reporting on them,” council CEO Jeff Morrison said in a phone interview on May 11.
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“Even if, let’s say, an airport has a particular standard of getting your luggage through its luggage belt in a certain period of time, we don’t know what that is.”
Known as Bill C-52, the legislation also sketches out a plan to consult the public on airspace changes affecting noise near airports, to require airports to report on pollution reduction plans and to compel service providers to submit accessibility data to the government.
Almost certain not to pass before the House rises for its break, the bill further aims to enhance transparency on how a port sets its fees by mandating port authorities “to follow certain principles when establishing or changing” them. It also spells out a process to challenge newly set fees via the country’s transport regulator.
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