Air Canada, WestJet launch legal battles to overturn orders to pay passengers compensation

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The combat over compensation claims for cancelled and delayed flights has made its manner into the Federal Court of Appeal. 

Air Canada and WestJet have each launched a legal battle to attraction separate Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) rulings the place, in every case, the airline was ordered to compensate a number of passengers for a cancelled flight attributable to a staffing scarcity. 

The airways every allege in courtroom paperwork that they should not have to pay, as a result of the CTA — Canada’s transport regulator and a quasi-judicial tribunal — misinterpreted Canada’s compensation laws. 

Consumer advocate and lawyer John Lawford mentioned if the airways win their appeals, it might set a precedent for compensation claims involving staffing issues.

“Basically anytime the airline has a staffing scarcity of any sort that may very well be … an occasion that is out of their management and due to this fact all these claims would fail,” mentioned Lawford, govt director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). “I feel that these appeals … sign that they, the airways, are very resistant to paying compensation.”

John Lawford, govt director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, says if WestJet and Air Canada are profitable in interesting current Canadian Transportation Agency rulings, it might have an effect on different compensation claims. (Christian Patry/CBC)

WestJet and Air Canada every instructed CBC News they abide by Canada’s Air Passenger Protections Regulations (APPR). WestJet mentioned it has launched its attraction to guarantee the foundations are pretty utilized. 

“There is not any one-size-fits-all crew difficulty and we consider that is what the CTA is making an attempt to do, is to make all crew points the identical,” mentioned Andy Gibbons, WestJet’s vice-president of presidency relations.

WestJet ordered to pay $1,000

Under the APPR, airways solely have to pay compensation — up to $1,000 — if a flight delay or cancellation is inside an airline’s management and never required for security causes. 

The CTA mentioned it has acquired greater than 16,000 air passenger complaints involving flight disruptions since May. 

The CTA’s rulings on the WestJet and Air Canada instances, which had been printed this previous summer season, had been supposed to assist clear the air on compensation guidelines for flight disruptions attributable to crew shortages.

The company clarified that staffing issues are thought-about inside the airline’s management and cannot be labeled as a security difficulty, except an airline can show in any other case. 

The WestJet case concerned passenger Owen Lareau, whose flight in July 2021 from Regina again house to Ottawa was cancelled, inflicting a 21 hour delay.

According to the CTA, WestJet argued {that a} pilot had referred to as in sick about an hour earlier than take-off and a alternative could not be present in time, so the flight cancellation was a security difficulty which does not warrant compensation. 

But the CTA decided that WestJet “didn’t sufficiently set up” that the flight cancellation was unavoidable, so it ordered the airline to compensate Lareau $1,000. 

Andy Gibbons, WestJet’s vice-president of presidency relations, says the Canadian Transportation Agency should not punish airways for cancelling flights for security causes. (CBC)

WestJet requested permission to attraction the ruling in August and was granted approval by the Federal Court of Appeal final month.

“Fundamentally, we consider that it was a security determination to cancel this flight and we stand by that,” mentioned WestJet’s Gibbons. “The authentic goal of the APPR was to shield customers from industrial choices of airways, not to punish airways for security choices.”

Gibbons additionally urged airfares might rise if the CTA continues to generalize crew shortages as inside an airline’s management.

“We have an obligation to hold our prices low and that has to be balanced with the equity of the compensation regimes which can be in place.”

The CTA and the passengers concerned in each instances declined to remark whereas the issues are earlier than the courts.

Air Canada ordered to pay $2,000

In the Air Canada case, passenger Lisa Crawford and her son had been delayed by virtually 16 hours after the airline cancelled their August 2021 flight from their house in Fort St. John, B.C., to Halifax.

According to the CTA, Air Canada argued {that a} pilot was unable to full a required coaching course in time, and the airline could not safe a alternative, so the flight cancellation was exterior its management. 

But the CTA decided that Air Canada failed to present proof “establishing that the crew scarcity was unavoidable regardless of correct planning,” so Crawford and her son have to be compensated $1,000 every. 

Air Canada requested permission from the courts final month to attraction the ruling and is ready for approval. 

WATCH | Air Canada, WestJet combat buyer compensation choices: 

Air Canada, WestJet combating buyer compensation choices

Both WestJet and Air Canada launch legal battles to attraction current choices ordering them to compensate passengers. Experts say if the airways are profitable, it might affect different claims.

In its movement for an attraction, the airline argues the CTA cannot presume crew shortages are inside the airways’ management after which put the onus on them to disprove it.

“It has interpreted the APPR in a manner unintended by the act, inserting an unattainable burden of proof upon carriers,” mentioned Air Canada spokesperson, Peter Fitzpatrick in an electronic mail. 

WestJet makes an analogous legal argument in its movement for an attraction.

PIAC’s Lawford suggests the CTA’s request for proof was truthful. 

“It’s an inexpensive proposition for a regulator to say we anticipate you to have plans for employees shortages,” he mentioned. “The company was simply asking them to present some proof that they made an effort.”

Another attraction 

Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations are additionally the topic of one other courtroom battle. 

In 2019, Air Canada and Porter Airlines, together with greater than a dozen candidates, together with the International Air Transport Association, filed a movement within the Federal Court of Appeal to quash lots of the laws. 

The candidates argue the APPR is “invalid” for worldwide flights as a result of it differs from the Montreal Convention, a treaty adopted by many nations — together with Canada — which establishes airline legal responsibility for flight disruptions. 

Under the Montreal Convention, air passengers can solely get compensation for flight disruptions in the event that they show they suffered a monetary loss

A call in that case is predicted quickly. 

Lawford mentioned if all of the appeals are profitable, it might imply few flight disruptions warrant compensation.

“It would definitely be a combat for the typical shopper to get their declare accepted.”

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