Air Canada is Again Refusing to Compensate Passengers on Flights That Air Canada Cancelled, this time due staff shortages. Previously, we reported on Air Canada challenging the U.S. Department of Transportation by refusing to refund passengers for flights Air Canada cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. DOT found that 85 of the formal complaints it received for flights Air Canada significantly changed or cancelled warranted enforcement action. The DOT settled its enforcement action with Air Canada for $4.5 million, $2.5 million of which was to be used by the airline to provide refunds to passengers.
Now Air Canada is at it again: in a December 29, 2021 memo, the airline instructed employees to classify flight cancellations caused by staff shortages as a “safety” problem, which would exclude travelers from compensation under federal regulations.
As a result, passengers such as Ryan Farrell, whose June 17, 2022 flight from Yellowknife to Calgary was cancelled due to crew constraints, are being denied compensation. The email to Farrell from Air Canada read: “Since your Air Canada flight was delayed/cancelled due to crew constraints resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations, the compensation you are requesting does not apply because the delay/cancellation was caused by a safety-related issue.”
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA)'s Air Passenger Protections, as of 12/15/19, require large airlines such as Air Canada to compensate passengers for delays that are within their control and not related to safety as follows:
- Delays of 3-6 hours: CAD $400
- Delays >6 hours – 9 hours: CAD $700
- Delays of >9 hours: CAD $1000
Reclassifying a staff shortage as a safety issue isn't permitted. According to a CTA email, “if a crew shortage is due to the actions or inactions of the carrier, the disruption will be considered within the carrier’s control for the purposes of the APPR. Therefore, a disruption caused by a crew shortage should not be considered ‘required for safety purposes' when it is the carrier who caused the safety issue as a result of its own actions.”
While passengers such as Farrell can dispute Air Canada's denial of a reimbursement claim with a complaint to the CTA, they may be in for a long wait: in May 2022 the agency's backlog exceeded over 15,300 air travel complaints.
Needed: a CTA with a backbone, that enforces Air Passenger Protections and forces Air Canada to promptly pay passengers the required compensation for cancellations that were due to crew shortages and all other reasons that are legitimately within the airline's control. Laws are only as good as enforcement, and Air Canada's track record with customer refunds and reimbursement during the pandemic is among the worst of any major international airline, along with TAP Portugal and United Airlines (see Best and Worst Airlines for Refunds from Cancelled Flights During the Pandemic).
Source: The Canadian Press
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