A WestJet Boeing waits for an Air Canada flight to land.
edk7, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Air Canada & WestJet to Challenge Passenger Compensation Claims

LONDON – Canadian airlines Air Canada and WestJet have launched legal appeals to challenge two Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) rulings which found they owed compensation to customers for flight cancellations and delays.

The Federal Court of Appeal will hear cases from the two airlines, who are alleging that Canada’s transport regulator, the CTA, misinterpreted Canada’s compensation regulations when it found them liable in the two cases in question.

The fight over compensation claims for cancelled and delayed flights has made its way into the Federal Court of Appeal. 

Speaking to Canada’s CBC News, consumer advocate and lawyer John Lawford says that if the appeals are successful, it would set a precedent for rulings on compensation claims which have arisen from airline staffing problems.

He also said that the appeals were suggestive of airlines reluctance to pay compensation. The two airlines told the news outlet that they abided by Canada’s Air Passenger Protections Regulations (APPR).

The Air Canada compensation case

In the Air Canada case, passenger Lisa Crawford and her son (the applicants) were scheduled to travel from Fort St. John, British Columbia, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, via Vancouver, British Columbia, and Ottawa, Ontario, on August 28, 2021, departing at 5:30 am and arriving in Halifax at 8:18 pm.

However, on August 27, 2021, the airline notified them that it had cancelled the flight from Fort St. John to Vancouver operated by Jazz, because of crew constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The applicants were rebooked on a new itinerary departing 11 hours later at 4:30 pm and arriving in Halifax at 11:31 am, the following day.

On the day of departure, the applicants’ flight from Vancouver to Ottawa flight was delayed by 1 hour and 18 minutes, and their Ottawa to Halifax flight was delayed by 51 minutes. The applicants arrived in Halifax 15 hours and 41 minutes later than originally scheduled

Air Canada argued that a pilot was unavailable due to attendance on a training course, and it couldn’t secure a replacement, so essentially the flight cancellation was outside its control. 

The CTA found that the airline had insufficient evidence to show the shortage was unavoidable, and ordered Air Canada to pay $2000 in compensation.

The WestJet compensation case

In the WestJet case, passenger Owen Lareau was originally scheduled to travel from Regina, Saskatchewan, to Ottawa, Ontario, via Toronto, Ontario, on July 18, 2021. His flight from Regina to Toronto was cancelled on the day of departure because of a crew shortage.

WestJet rebooked Mr. Lareau to travel the following day, providing hotel accommodation and meal vouchers. He arrived at his destination 21 hours later than originally scheduled.

Mr. Lareau requested compensation for inconvenience under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR); however, WestJet declined his claim on the basis that the flight was cancelled due to crew member availability, and that this cancellation was required for safety purposes.

The CTA determined that WestJet “did not sufficiently establish” that the flight cancellation was unavoidable. The airline was ordered to pay $1000 compensation to Mr Lareau. 

Summary

WestJet requested an appeal of the CTA ruling made in August, and was granted permission for the appeal to be heard.

Air Canada have similarly requested an appeal, and are awaiting approval.

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