Email raises questions about potential apprehension of bias at transport regulator

Email raises questions about potential apprehension of bias at transport regulator
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Questions about potential bias at the Canadian Transportation Agency came to the fore this week after a government official acknowledged that CTA board members greenlit the regulator’s stance in favour of travel vouchers over refunds.

Transport Canada policy adviser Blake Oliver said in an email to Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith that the agency’s members, vice-chair and chair would have approved its statement on vouchers, which has been cited by airlines and financial institutions to refuse reimbursements and chargebacks.

The March 27 statement said vouchers or flight credits for travellers generally amount to an appropriate response by airlines following flight cancellations prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, the CTA has received more than 8,000 complaints, some of which are likely to come before board members for adjudications on refund claims.

The agency’s code of conduct says board members should not express an opinion about potential cases in order to avoid creating “a reasonable apprehension of bias.”

The agency has said the statement on vouchers is not legally binding, and was posted in light of the risk that some passengers would receive nothing at all following a cancelled flight and amid the “severe liquidity crisis” facing airlines.

Erskine-Smith agreed to share the email, which he sent at the request of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group.

Last week, a Federal Court of Appeal judge dismissed an attempt by the CTA to prevent a hearing on its voucher statement after Air Passenger Rights asked the court in April to order its removal from the agency website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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