Air Canada to passengers: Don't volunteer to get bumped

Air Canada to fliers: Don’t volunteer to get bumped

Their “expense policy” could leave you high and dry


It’s a dilemma most of us have grappled with before: Minutes before boarding a flight, an airline attendant crackles over the speaker to say the flight is overbooked and ask that if a passenger would be willing to wait for a later flight. Hmmm, you think, maybe…

Stop that thought right there—at least when you’re flying Air Canada, CBC reports.

In an article released this morning, the Mother Corp delves into the frustrating journey of Chris Johnson, a 57-year-old colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force who opted to forgo a flight when mechanical troubles left staff scrambling to find replacement seats for stranded passengers. He was told to hang around the baggage area for his hotel and meal vouchers.

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They never came. Instead, he was told to book a hotel himself and file a claim later.

When he tried to submit his claim—for $531.56—Air Canada told him that their policy is to reimburse up to $100 for accommodation, $7 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $15 for dinner. Had he been a “premium” customer, Johnson might have fared a little better, but not by much: The article revealed that more-esteemed customers can be compensated up to $150 for hotel stays. After some exchanges with Air Canada officials, they upped their compensation to $222, leaving Johnson to pay $309 out of pocket.

Turns out that this so-called policy is against the law. The Montreal Convention is a law that dictates airlines should be compensating passengers with costs up to $9,000 for issues that are considered to be within the airline’s control and not something like inclement weather.

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When pushed on this disparity after Johnson took his case to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), Air Canada argued that their “Expense Policy” wasn’t a policy at all, just an internal guideline, and therefore the Montreal Convention is not applicable. And besides, they said, the electronic pump failure that caused the flight delay in the first place was “uncontrollable,” exempting the company from any fault. What Johnson was arguing for, according to an Air Canada representative, was simply the amount the airline would be willing to pay as “goodwill” in these situations. As the complaint moved up the chain at the CTA, Air Canada eventually offered to fully reimburse Johnson purely on “goodwill.” He refused their money on the basis that the airline was still not following the law.

It seems that it’s up to the airline whether they follow CTA compensation rules, regardless of whether you’ve been bumped or volunteer. Check the tariffs of the carrier you’re flying with so you’re prepared and know your rights.

Have you ever received insufficient reimbursement for an airline delay? Have any tips to avoid unfortunate situations? Share your thoughts in the comments below.