Slide Option 1

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Canadian airlines object to costs of returning inadmissible passengers

Canadian airlines are displeased with the expenses of returning new arrivals to their country of origin after they have been found inadmissible to Canada.

Reports of airline dissatisfaction stem from a federal legislative review of Canada’s Transportation Act. The national review encompasses the entire national transportation system, including various aspects of the aviation sector such as its competitiveness, quality of service to Canadians, and capacity for drawing visitors to Canada.

Criminal inadmissibility and unsuccessful refugee claims

In their submission to the review, Air Canada has identified “numerous scenarios” in which the airline must pay to fly inadmissible passengers back to their home country. Such cases include criminal inadmissibility and denied refugee claims. Under the former circumstances, the carrier has no foreknowledge that a traveler’s criminal record will keep them from crossing the border.

The expenses do not necessarily stop at the passenger’s transportation.

According to Air Canada, “In extreme cases, should the passenger become ill and be hospitalized before they leave Canada, carriers are even expected to pick up the medical bills.”

Delays in the refugee claims system pose further problems. If a passenger has lived in Canada for several years because the processing of their refugee claim has been prolonged, their return ticket may no longer be valid.

Air Canada describes these passengers as being “often violently opposed to leaving Canada.” Their repatriation entails considerable security expenses for the airline, such as the leasing of private jets to deport especially reluctant passengers.

From Air Canada’s perspective, “It is simply unfair to make airlines responsible for these costs, when the passenger had the required documents to travel to Canada and the passenger themselves tried to circumvent Canada’s immigration programs.”

As the system currently stands, when a Canadian airline passenger has been found inadmissible to their destination country, the airline is obligated to transport the passenger to a location where they are admissible, such as their country of origin. In the event that the passenger returns to Canada only to be denied entry again, Canada Border Services Agency penalizes the airline in the amount of $3,200. Although the air carrier can appeal the penalty, the necessary administrative costs and efforts are prohibitive. Furthermore, Air Canada states, “The airline then also becomes responsible for all costs associated with returning the passenger to the country of his or her nationality.”

Governmental responsibility

As an alternative, Air Canada recommends that the Canadian federal government should cover the expenses of returning passengers who are ruled inadmissible to Canada despite possessing the requisite travel documents. Air Canada further suggests that these costs should be open to potential reimbursement by the air traveler.

These views are shared by the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents four major Canadian airlines including Air Canada. The Council has officially stated that “the airline should not be asked to pay for the removal of the passenger” in cases of inadmissibility to Canada. The Council further contends it will be easier to enact these changes in the future, with the imminence of modernized transmission methods for passenger data. Newly implemented technologies will enable the government to green-light an airline’s decision to board a passenger before takeoff.

Air Canada representative Peter Fitzpatrick states that the carrier has no further details to submit to the review. A report of the review’s findings is expected from a panel headed by former cabinet minister David Emerson.