In light of the amendments to the Canada Transportation
Act tabled March 24 in the House of Commons by Transport Minister
Jean Lapierre, the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA)
is embarking on a Canada-wide effort to better inform consumers
and politicians as to the deceptive advertising of travel service
prices by the airlines.
The proposed legislative amendments introduced last week would
give the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) the authority to make
and enforce regulations to require that the advertised airfares
include all costs to the airline for providing that air service.
«The catch», said Marc-André Charlebois, President
and CEO of ACTA, «is that the CTA would be granted this authority
not by virtue of the Act itself but on the recommendation of the
Minister of Transport. ACTA wants to ensure that the Minister does,
in fact, make such recommendation, and as soon as the amendments
are implemented.» Despite longstanding discussions about this
issue, recent research reveals that airlines still advertise travel
services way below their real price.
«We have been warning Canadian consumers as well as the Canadian
government for many years about this situation and we are calling
on the Canadian government to introduce Canada-wide standards that
would apply throughout the travel industry to correct the current
situation, » added Marc-André Charlebois.
Charlebois is particularly worried about recent research by Options
consommateurs, a Quebec-based consumer protection group, that clearly
indicates how real prices can exceed airline-advertised prices by
margins of up to 90% on such widely-traveled destinations as Montreal,
Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax, St. John’s,
as well as international destinations such as New York and Florida.
The difference comes from hidden charges and fees not included
in the prices advertised by airlines, such as airport improvement
or NavCanada fees, fuel, insurance and security charges.
«This is unfair for the consumer as well as for travel agents
who comply with the different provincial laws that apply to the
travel industry by advertising the real price of travel services»
ACTA members will inform customers
Starting next week, all 3 000 ACTA travel agency members will provide
information to their customers on this issue.
ACTA itself will conduct a Canada-wide effort to reach Federal
members of parliament, trade and consumer associations and the media.
A call for Federal legislation
ACTA had been calling for Federal legislation to define Canada-wide
standards to correct the current situation. «The amendments
introduced by Minister Lapierre provide the necessary guidance for
the introduction of regulations that would totally remedy the problem»,
argued Charlebois, «but the adoption of such will be left
entirely at the whim of the Transport Minister and that isn't good
enough.» ACTA’s proposal to the Federal government is
- Fares advertised by airlines should represent the total cost
of services provided by the carrier, that is, the amount the customer
will be required to pay for travel between departure point and
destination, including all fees, levies, services charges and
other added charges considered as part and parcel of the carrier’s
- The aforementioned fees and surcharges may be listed in the
advertising copy to provide additional and helpful information
- Applicable sales taxes shall also be included in the total cost
and an explicit statement to that effect shall be included in
the body of the ad.
- Furthermore, mandatory round-trip tickets should be advertised
as such and not as one-way fares.
Other aspects of the amendments to the Canada Transportation Act,
including a conspicuous oversight regarding consumer protection
against travel supplier failure, will be the subject of further
comments and recommendations by ACTA in the days and weeks ahead.
ACTA is the national trade association representing the interests
of 3 000 small, medium and large travel agencies that employ 20
000 retail travel professionals in communities across Canada.