In a decision released August 25, the CTA awarded $1,000 each to Lisa Crawford and her son, following the cancellation of their flight that delayed their trip from Fort St. John, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
According to the CTA, when Ms. Crawford asked the airline for an explanation, Air Canada told her that since the flight was canceled due to a crew shortage related to COVID-19, she and her son were not eligible for compensation because the flight was canceled for a safety-related reason.
Under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), airlines must only pay compensation – of up to $1,000 per passenger – if the flight cancellation or delay is the fault of the airline. carrier and that it is not related to a security issue.
Unsatisfied with the response, Ms. Crawford took the matter to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which ultimately ruled in her favor.
According to the CTA, staffing and other aspects of operations are the responsibility of the employer and that under-crew and its consequences are therefore the responsibility of the airline.
The CTA explains in its decision that Air Canada did not provide evidence
establishing that undermanning was inevitable despite proper planningand that therefore Mrs. Crawford and her son should be compensated.
I was delighted with the conclusion of the OTCMs. Crawford told CBC, although she doubts this case carries much weight in the legal battle currently unfolding across the country over whether airlines should compensate passengers for flight disruptions caused by the lack of crew.
Indeed, WestJet recently filed an appeal of a similar CTA decision last July, in which the carrier was ordered to compensate a passenger for a flight delay due to lack of crew. The airline argues that the CTA’s decision was ill-founded because it was based on a misinterpretation of Canadian air passenger rules.
Given the continuing disagreement over how the regulations should be interpreted and/or applied, I believe the actual outcome of my case, and likely many others, remains to be seen.Mr. Crawford said.
Since 1er last May, the CTA received 13,743 complaints from passengers, 87% of which were related to flight disruptions.
The CTA’s ruling in the WestJet case, released on July 8, was expected to help clarify some of these compensation disputes.
In that case, WestJet initially denied compensation to passenger Owen Lareau of Ottawa for a flight cancellation, stating that it
was due to the availability of a crew member and was necessary for safety reasons.
The organization had ordered WestJet to pay $1,000 to Mr. Lareau.
” Training and staffing are within the control of the airlines and therefore crew shortages are within the control of the airlines unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary. »
But in a motion filed in the Federal Court of Appeal on August 10, WestJet argued that, according to the APPRthe CTA cannot assume that crew shortages warrant compensation and then place the burden on airlines to disprove it.
For Me John Lawford, lawyer and director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, WestJet takes a close reading of the rules.
The airline says: “It’s fine, we will only follow the current wording of the regulations and we will go to court”.
WestJet, the CTA and Owen Lareau all declined to comment on the matter.
Lots of money at stake
According to John Gradek, a former Air Canada executive now a lecturer and coordinator of the aviation management program at McGill University, some airlines will continue to refuse to compensate passengers for flight disruptions caused by the lack of crew, unless it is not formally established in a law.
” They will continue on this path until they are told otherwise. They will continue to try to get by without paying, because it is a very important expense. »
Asked by CBC News about its intentions following the CTA’s decision, Air Canada replied through its spokesperson, Peter Ftizpatrick, that the company was unable to comment because it is still reviewing the decision.
It should be noted that Air Canada, like a dozen other players in the airline industry, including the International Air Transport Association, have been engaged since 2019 in a legal battle to have the Air Passenger Protection Regulations invalidated. for international flights because it differs from the Montreal Convention, a treaty adopted by many countries – including Canada – which establishes the liability of airlines in the event of flight disruptions.
I think before Christmas we will know from the Federal Court of Appeal whether the entire APPR scheme is rejected or notsaid Lawford.
Eyes turn to Ottawa
According to him, the Federal Transport Minister, Omar Alghabra, should help passengers to file compensation claims by sending a strong message to airlines to remind them that they must comply with the compensation rules established by the CTA. .
The minister should spank these guys, these airlines, and say, “How dare you, how dare you screw up my regulations?”thunders the director of the Public Interest Advocacy Center.
Since August, Minister Alghabra has repeatedly publicly warned airlines that they must abide by the rules. But, so far, his warnings have failed to reduce the flood of complaints from air passengers pouring into the CTA; it currently has to deal with a backlog of more than 23,000 grievances.
With information from Sophia Harris of CBC News