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IATA’s de Juniac Warns Against Regulating Overbooking

IATA’s de Juniac Warns Against Regulating Overbooking
Jackie Reddy

The practice, says IATA’s chief executive, protects profits and is “key” to ensuring the continuity of a carrier’s operations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned Canadian authorities against attempting to regulate overbooking, reports the Financial PostThe nation’s government is attempting to institute Bill C-49, which would clarify passengers’ rights with respect of overbooking. But in an interview, Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and chief executive, said that, “There is absolutely no need to regulate overbooking.”

He added, “This is the airlines’ position based on a long, long experience. The need for airlines to overbook in managing their seats, their revenues, is key.”

C-49 passed through the nation’s senate this week and despite de Juniac’s objections, Marc Garneau, Canada’s transport minister, is eager that this new legislation spells out exactly what rights passengers have in the instance of overbooking. “I have been clear that regulations would include provisions whose intent would be that any denied boarding due to overbooking is done voluntarily and that under no circumstance (should) someone be involuntary removed from an aircraft after they have boarded,” he said.

But overbooking, explained de Juniac, is actually an important part of a carrier’s operations, as it enables airlines to protect profit margins by ensuring that plane’s are full. Thanks to technological improvements, overbooking, he said, “almost never happens now.” Furthermore, de Juniac added that “market forces are a very strong incentive” in terms of protecting travelers.

Jacob Charbonneau, CEO of Flight Claim, a passenger rights group, believes that, as a piece of legislation, C-49 should be expanded. “It would also be appropriate to follow the lead of the European legislation in establishing a separate procedure when an airline has overbooked.”

This model would provide compensation for delays and cancellations as well as for overbooking. But de Juniac again protested, saying that this style of legislation, “…goes too far in terms of refunding passengers for delays, even when you are not responsible for the reasons for the delay. It’s too much of a heavy burden on the shoulders of the airline.”

However, he also added, “We have to find the right balance between passenger protection and airline protection.”

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