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Air Canada ordered to pay passengers $2,000 for flight cancellation caused by crew shortage

A current ruling by Canada’s transport regulator in favor of two Air Canada passengers whose flight was delayed is the newest improvement within the ongoing battle over whether or not airways should compensate passengers for flight disruptions attributable to crew shortages.

In a choice printed on Aug. 25, the Canadian Transportation Company (CTA) ordered Air Canada to compensate passenger Lisa Crawford and her son $1,000 every following a flight cancellation that delayed their August 2021 journey from their house metropolis of Fort St. John, BC, to Halifax by virtually 16 hours.

Based on the CTA, Air Canada initially advised Crawford the flight cancellation was attributable to a crew scarcity linked to COVID-19, and was safety-related — so she wasn’t eligible for compensation.

The airline’s response prompted Crawford to take her case to the CTA, a quasi-judicial tribunal.

“Staffing and different elements of operations are the employer’s duty to handle,” mentioned Crawford in an e-mail to CBC Information.

The CTA agreed, stating in its resolution that Air Canada failed to supply proof “establishing that the crew scarcity was unavoidable regardless of correct planning,” so Crawford and her son have to be compensated.

Beneath Canada’s Air Passenger Safety Rules (APPR), airways solely must pay compensation — as much as $1,000 per passenger — if a flight cancellation or delay is throughout the airline’s management and never required for security causes.

“I used to be thrilled with the CTA’s discovering,” mentioned Crawford, though she and others query whether or not the case will carry a lot weight.

That is as a result of WestJet not too long ago filed a request to enchantment an analogous CTA ruling in July the place WestJet was ordered to compensate a passenger for a flight delay involving a crew scarcity. The airline argues the CTA’s resolution was flawed, as a result of it was primarily based on a misinterpretation of Canada’s air passenger guidelines.

“Given the continued disagreement on how the laws are to be interpreted and/or utilized, I imagine the true end result for my case and certain many others, stays to be seen,” mentioned Crawford.

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The Canadian Transportation Company says it has obtained greater than 7,000 complaints from airline passengers about flight disruptions since Might. It is anticipated that new refund guidelines coming subsequent month will assist some passengers, however there are nonetheless rising considerations that airways have an excessive amount of wiggle room to keep away from paying.

Court docket battles elevate questions

Based on the CTA, it has obtained 13,743 air passenger complaints since Might 1, of which 87 % are associated to flight disruptions.

The CTA’s ruling within the WestJet case, issued on July 8, was supposed to assist clear the air on a few of these compensation disputes.

In that case, WestJet initially denied passenger Owen Lareau of Ottawa compensation for a canceled flight, stating it “was impacted attributable to flight crew member availability and required for security functions.”

In its resolution, the CTA clarified that staffing points usually warrant compensation as a result of, basically, they’re an airline’s duty and can’t be categorized as a security matter.

The company additionally ordered WestJet to pay Lareau $1,000.

“Coaching and staffing are inside airline management and due to this fact crew shortages are inside airline management, until there’s compelling proof” on the contrary, mentioned CTA spokesperson Tom Oommen in an interview. “It is a excessive threshold.”

However in a movement filed within the Federal Court docket of Enchantment on Aug. 10, WestJet argued that, in keeping with the APPR, the CTA cannot presume crew shortages warrant compensation after which put the onus on airways to disprove it.

Client advocate and lawyer, John Lawford mentioned WestJet is providing a slender studying of the foundations, and that the CTA ruling in July got down to make clear them.

“[The airline is] saying, ‘That is good, the precise wording of the laws is all we’ll comply with and we’ll court docket.’ “

WestJet, the CTA and passenger Lareau have every declined to touch upon the case.

John Gradek, a lecturer in aviation administration at McGill College, believes some airways will proceed to disclaim passengers compensation for flight disruptions attributable to crew shortages — until a court docket lays down the legislation. (Francois Sauve/CBC)

Former Air Canada government John Gradek mentioned he believes some airways will proceed to disclaim compensation for flight disruptions attributable to crew shortages — until a court docket lays down the legislation.

“They will proceed down this path till they’re advised in any other case,” mentioned Gradek, a lecturer and program co-ordinator for the aviation administration program at McGill College.

“They will maintain attempting to get away with out paying, as a result of it’s a very critical expense.”

‘Minister needs to be spanking these guys’

CBC Information requested Air Canada if, like WestJet, it deliberate to enchantment the CTA’s ruling that it should pay Crawford and her son compensation.

Spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick replied that the airline was unable to remark because it’s nonetheless reviewing the ruling.

However Air Canada is already participating in a authorized battle that calls into query Canada’s compensation laws. The airline is one in every of greater than a dozen candidates, together with the Worldwide Air Transport Affiliation, which filed a movement in 2019 to enchantment the APPR.

In that case, which continues to be earlier than the Federal Court docket of Enchantment, the candidates argue the laws are “invalid” for worldwide flights as a result of they differ from the Montreal Conference, a treaty adopted by many international locations — together with Canada — which establishes airline legal responsibility for flight disruptions.

“I believe earlier than Christmas, we’ll discover out from the Federal Court docket of Enchantment if all the APPR regime will get tossed or not,” mentioned Lawford, government director of the Public Curiosity Advocacy Centre.

WATCH | Passengers say they’re being unfairly denied compensation:

Vacationers say they’re being unfairly denied compensation for Air Canada flight cancellations

Some vacationers say they’re being denied compensation for canceled Air Canada flights because the airline claims the flight disruptions had been ‘attributable to crew constraints’ and past their management.

Lawford mentioned federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra ought to help passengers with compensation claims by sending a stern message to airways that they need to abide by the compensation guidelines set out by the CTA.

“The Minister needs to be spanking these guys, these airways, and saying, ‘How dare you, how dare you screw up my laws,'” mentioned Lawford.

Since August, Alghabra has repeatedly issued public warnings to airways that they need to comply with the foundations.

“Passengers have rights and so they should be revered,” he mentioned in an announcement simply final week. “We’ll proceed to guard the pursuits of passengers when journey doesn’t go in keeping with plan.”

However, to date, the warnings have not curtailed the flood of air passenger complaints pouring in to the CTA; it at present faces a backlog of greater than 23,000 grievances.

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