Air Canada passenger feels cheated after trip dates changed
VANCOUVER -- Last November, Stacey Silber and her daughter booked a May trip to Hawaii with Air Canada. But in late January, they were told the airline had cancelled the flight and rebooked them– on flights leaving a day earlier and coming back a day later. That was a problem for Silber – she’d already booked a hotel and rental car.
“I can’t just suddenly take more time off of work. My daughter can’t take more off of school,” said Silber. “I expect to get what I paid for.”
At the very least, she expected they’d be booked flights on the same days.
Air Passenger Rights advocate Gábor Lukács says according to regulations, the airline should have booked the travellers on the next available flight and if they couldn’t do that, to book them on a different carrier.
“The airline failed to comply with the Air Passenger Protection Regulations,” said Lukács.
When CTV News spoke to Silber in early February, WestJet did have flights to Hawaii available that closely matched her original ticket. However, in a follow-up with Air Canada, the airline said it didn’t have to follow rebooking and compensation rules because the cancellation was a scheduling change due to the ongoing grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. And, it said, Silber was notified more than 14 days prior to the flight.
The Canadian Transportation Agency, which regulates airlines, pointed out to CTV News that the Max 737’s grounding is a safety issue which would relieve the airline of obligations to pay compensation. However, the agency says, airlines are expected to recover from events that are out of their control in a reasonable period of time, and to minimize flight disruptions for their passengers.
The Max 737 was grounded on March 13, 2019 and Lukács says the situation was within the airline’s control - Silber should have been booked on another carrier and given $400 in extra compensation if she opted for a refund.
In January, when it became clear regulators were still not going to clear the 737 Max to fly, Air Canada made changes to its schedule. Lukács says it was a known issue and the airline shouldn’t have been selling tickets for a flight it couldn’t provide.
“If passengers were taking airlines to court regularly, then airlines would have to change,” said Lukács.
In the end, Silber rebooked her own ticket with WestJet to match her original vacation days. She says she had to pay an additional $500 for the tickets because prices had gone up.
But Silber is a lawyer, and is not giving up. She says she intends to file a claim against Air Canada.
Since the regulations changed, complaints about airlines not following the new rules have exploded.
The Canadian Transportation Agency says it’s received about 10,000 since the new rules took effect. And it has now launched an inquiry.
“Our job right now is to make sure the regulations are followed, to look into any complaints we receive and over time, if we conclude there’s room for improvement, well, we’ll look at making those improvements,” said Scott Streiner, the CTA’s CEO.