Air Canada says it will offer compensation to travellers who were affected by flight delays caused by technical problems in recent weeks.
The airline, which had initially faced questions over messages reportedly sent to passengers saying they would not be entitled to compensation, has said its earlier response was “erroneous.”
“Air Canada is offering compensation in line with APPR (Air Passenger Protection Regulations) compensation levels for flights which were affected by the IT outage. Some passengers had received erroneous responses from us, and we are in the process of recontacting them with the correct responses,” an Air Canada spokesperson told Global News.
Some passengers had received messages from the airline, saying the tech issues were out of its hands. The company has since said that message was an error.
A Transport Canada spokesperson told Global News that changes made to the APPR recently made compensation for passengers mandatory, simplified the complaints process and put the onus on airlines instead of passengers.
“We have been in touch with Air Canada, and they have assured us they will be compensating passengers whose flights were impacted by the recent IT issues,” Transport Canada spokesperson Nadine Ramadan said.
The country’s largest carrier has struggled with intermittent computer problems over the past 15 days.
On May 25, it delayed more than half its flights due to a “technical issue” with the system that the airline uses to communicate with aircraft and monitor their performance. On June 1, it delayed or cancelled more than 500 flights — over three-quarters of its trips that day, according to tracking service FlightAware — due to “IT issues.”
That same day, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra stressed the carrier’s compensation responsibilities to its guests.
“Air Canada has obligations to passengers who are impacted because it is caused by things that the airline has control over,” he told reporters June 1, hours after the IT issues resurfaced.
In April, Alghabra laid out measures to toughen penalties and tighten loopholes around traveller compensation as part of a proposed overhaul of Canada’s passenger rights charter.
If passed as part of the budget bill, the reforms will put the onus on airlines to show a flight disruption is caused by safety concerns or reasons outside their control, with specific examples to be drawn up by the Canadian Transportation Agency as a list of exceptions around compensation.
“It will no longer be the passenger who will have to prove that he or she is entitled to compensation. It will now be the airline that will need to prove that it does not have to pay for it,” Alghabra said on April 24.
Currently, a passenger is entitled to between $125 and $1,000 in compensation for a three-hour-plus delay or a cancellation made within 14 days of the scheduled departure — unless the disruption stems from events outside the airline’s control, such as weather or a safety issue including mechanical problems. The amount varies depending on the size of the carrier and the length of the delay.
— with files from the Canadian Press
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