Passengers and advocates say Air Canada is giving them the runaround on refunds, compensation and reasons cited for flight delays and cancellations – including a case of harsh weather cited two weeks before it struck.
Despite thousands of scrapped flights and late arrivals, customers are struggling to file successful complaints or learn the nuances of complex regulations amid the overwhelming surge in summer travel.
The country’s largest carrier informed some passengers their flight to Lisbon would be delayed due to “bad weather,” 12 days before it was even slated to leave Montreal on July 17.
Another traveller recently received a $60 “eCoupon” due to a days-long baggage delay rather than the direct refund she’s entitled to under both federal rules and Air Canada’s passenger-carrier contract.
“It’d be great if I could get that money back rather than a coupon. Especially since I am still without my bag and fronting interim expenses,” said Air Canada Rouge passenger Leanna Durdle.
On Tuesday the airline cancelled a flight from Nashville to Toronto citing a “technical issue.” But data on tracking service Flightradar24 shows the same plane that was scheduled to fly into Nashville for the trip instead took off for Boston an hour after the original departure time, despite the stated mechanical problem.
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Liam Walshe, a paralegal who advocates for consumer protection, called the reasons cited “questionable” and “suspect.” Mechanical malfunctions do not qualify as within the carrier’s control and thus exempt it from having to compensate customers, he noted.
“I was pretty shocked with what I was seeing,” he said.
“How would they say it’s for maintenance and then an hour later the aircraft flies to Boston instead? Why wouldn’t they just delay the Nashville flight slightly?”
Walshe said that taken together, the myriad instances of “technical” or “maintenance” issues along with travel vouchers rather than reimbursement create an appearance of trying to avoid “having to pay out.”
“People have been submitting claims and they’ve been getting denied,” he said. “You’ll see all kinds of people saying that there’s inconsistent reasons.”
Air Canada said in an email the weather explanation on the Lisbon flight was “an incorrect notification” that has since been revised.
“Air Canada fully appreciates the disappointment and inconvenience schedule changes cause customers, and does its utmost to mitigate these regrettable situations,” the airline said in a statement.
It notes travellers can request a refund in the original form of payment, and says it will pay additional compensation where “due” under the passenger rights charter.