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Air Canada ordered to issue refund to B.C. woman

Canada's biggest airline says an unauthorized group briefly breached an internal system linked to the personal information and records of some employees. Air Canada logos are seen on the tails of planes at the airport in Montreal, Que., Monday, June 26, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada's biggest airline says an unauthorized group briefly breached an internal system linked to the personal information and records of some employees. Air Canada logos are seen on the tails of planes at the airport in Montreal, Que., Monday, June 26, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Air Canada has been ordered to issue a woman a refund that she was promised after her flight to New Zealand was delayed nearly two years ago, according to a decision from B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal.

The dispute between Brenda Peterson and the airline began on Christmas Eve of 2021, when Peterson did not arrive at the gate in time to board a plane departing Vancouver for Auckland and had to leave on a later flight. The reason for the missed flight and who was to blame were not at issue, the tribunal found.

The key issue was whether a refund was promised and whether that promise was kept.

"The parties undisputedly agreed that Ms. Peterson would accept a refund of the $550 in excess checked baggage fees," tribunal member Alison Wake wrote in the ruling.

"To date, Ms. Peterson has not received the refund," the decision also says.

Peterson was asking the tribunal to order the refund and was also seeking $4,000 in damages for the delay as compensation for "loss of income, financial hardship, and emotional, mental, and physical suffering."

The airline was asking for Peterson's claim to be dismissed entirely, arguing, in part, that it was not legally required to provide the refund.

The tribunal disagreed.

"Whether or not it was legally required, I find Air Canada offered the refund to Ms. Peterson in response to a complaint that she made to its customer service department," the decision says.

Finding in favour of Peterson on the issue of the refund, the tribunal referenced an email from March of 2022 in which a representative of the airline said, “Your refund is confirmed!"

The promised refund "undisputedly" never appeared. Peterson did not receive a cheque in the mail or a refund to her credit card, the decision says.

Peterson provided the tribunal with emails that she sent to the company on three occasions over the next three months trying to arrange for the refund.

"There are no responses from Air Canada in evidence," Wake's decision said.

"On Aug. 25, 2022, after Ms. Peterson had filed this CRT dispute, Air Canada emailed her to say it could send a cheque to a North American mailing address, or provide an international direct bank transfer. The evidence shows several emails between Ms. Peterson and Air Canada in the ensuing months, but Ms. Peterson undisputedly still did not receive the refund."

Finding the airline was bound by its representative's agreement with Peterson, the tribunal ordered Air Canada to pay Peterson $550 within 21 days, as well as $23.58 in interest.

The tribunal dismissed Peterson's claim for damages, finding that there was no evidence that the delay had resulted in lost wages or otherwise taken a financial toll, and that there was no medical evidence submitted showing mental distress.

"While I acknowledge that Ms. Peterson has likely been frustrated and inconvenienced by Air Canada’s delay in processing her refund, I find she has not proven that she is entitled to damages as a result," Wake concluded.

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