Customers cry as Air Canada and WestJet continue to deny certain compensation claims despite new directive | CBC News

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A recent decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) was supposed to help clear the air on clearing flights.

In issuing a decision in a WestJet case on July 8, the transportation regulator Clarified thatIn general, airlines cannot deny passengers compensation for flight disruptions caused by crew shortages.

However, the clarification has only ignited the fury of some passengers, including Frank Michel, who has since been denied compensation due to crew shortages.

“It’s insulting,” said Michel, of Marquis, Sask.

He and his wife, Leigh, flew with Air Canada in June. The couple’s flight from Regina to Victoria was delayed by more than five hours. Then the second leg of their return flight was cancelled, so the couple ended up spending the night at the Vancouver airport.

“I have arthritis, it hurts and hurts, I sleep on a damn concrete floor,” said Michel, 67.

After Air Canada canceled his flight, Michel, 67, ended up spending the night on the floor of the Vancouver airport. (Frank Michael)

The couple requested compensation, which would total $2,800 if they qualified. But in late July, Air Canada rejected Michels’ claim. In two separate emails seen by CBC News, the airline said each flight disruption was due to “crew restrictions” linked to COVID-19 and was “safety related.”

under federal rulesairlines only have to pay compensation, up to $1,000 per passenger, if the flight disruption is under the airline’s control and not safety related.

Michel argues that Air Canada is not following the rules.

“CTA has already made it clear that crew limitations are not an acceptable excuse,” he said. “It’s not a security issue. It’s a management issue. You have to manage your resources.”

‘This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything’

The CTA issued its clarification last month based on a case in which WestJet denied compensation to a customer, alleging that his flight had been canceled for safety reasons due to crew shortages.

In its ruling, the CTA emphasized that personnel problems generally warrant compensation because they are generally the responsibility of an airline and cannot be classified as a safety issue. Therefore, the agency ordered WestJet to pay the passenger $1,000.

“Training and staffing are under the control of the airline, and therefore crew shortages are under the control of the airline, unless there is convincing evidence” to the contrary, the CTA spokesman said. , Tom Oommen, in an interview. “It’s a high threshold.”

SEE | Air passengers say they have been unfairly denied compensation:

Travelers say they are unfairly denied compensation for Air Canada flight cancellations

Some travelers say they are being denied compensation for canceled Air Canada flights, as the airline claims the flight disruptions were due to “crew limitations” and are beyond its control.

Oommen said the CTA’s decision will help ensure airlines follow the rules. But some passengers remain skeptical.

“This decision doesn’t seem to mean anything,” said Jennifer Peach, of Langley, BC, who, along with her husband, had booked a WestJet trip to attend a wedding last month in St. John’s.

They almost don’t make it. WestJet canceled their connecting flight, and Peach said the airline offered to rebook them a day later, which would mean they would miss the wedding.

Fortunately, Peach found a Porter Airlines flight that would take the couple to St. John about five hours later than originally scheduled, but still in time for the wedding. WestJet told her to book the flight and request compensation, she said.

Peach asked WestJet for the full $773 it paid for Porter’s flight, plus compensation for the couple’s trip delay. On August 2, WestJet rejected both requests.

In an email seen by CBC News, the airline stated that the cancellation of the flight “was due to the availability of crew members and was necessary for safety reasons.”

That didn’t sit well with Peach, especially in light of the CTA’s recent decision.

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” he said. “I guess if the Canadian Transportation Agency makes a decision like this, it would be the benchmark for all these [claims].”

Enforcement options ‘could include fines’: CTA

WestJet and Air Canada declined to comment on individual cases, but both said they comply with federal air passenger regulations. WestJet said safety is its top priority. Air Canada said airlines should not be penalized for canceling flights for safety reasons.

Air passenger rights expert Ian Jack said the CTA should threaten airlines with severe penalties, including public shaming and heavy fines, if they fail to comply with offsetting regulations.

“The biggest concern is that the regulator isn’t exactly striking fear into the hearts of carriers to force them to follow the rules,” said Jack, a spokesman for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), a nonprofit travel agency.

“They need to know that the regulator could catch them, shame them and call them to task.”

This chart shows the compensation air travelers may be entitled to based on the length of their flight delay. (CBC)

CTA’s Oommen suggested stiff penalties could be imposed on airlines that do not comply. “In fact, we are looking at all enforcement options … which could include fines.”

Meanwhile, both Michel and Peach have filed complaints with the CTA. However, they may have a long wait. The agency is currently dealing with a backlog of more than 15,000 complaints, Oommen said.

He said the CTA recently made changes to streamline the complaint process and is trying to hire more staff.

But Jack said he worries that the backlog could encourage airlines to break the rules, because any repercussions will be later.

“They don’t have to pay today, and who knows, maybe in 2025, they have to pay money.”

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