Air Canada is refusing to compensate passengers for cancellations thanks to a policy that lets them call staff shortages a safety problem
Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 departs from Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California on July 30, 2022. AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images
Air Canada has a policy that allows employees to classify flight cancellations due to understaffing as a "safety issue."
The policy barred travelers from being entitled to compensation under federal regulations.
The Canadian Transportation Agency said treating staff shortages as a safety issue violates federal regulations.
Air Canada is refusing to compensate passengers for cancellations thanks to a policy introduced during COVID-19 that allows the airline to call staff shortages a safety issue, The Canadian Press reported.
Amid a summer of travel chaos plagued by flight delays and lost luggage, the practice is a further complication for weary travelers, according to The Canadian Press, which reported that passenger Ryan Farrell's flight from Yellowknife to Calgary was canceled due to what the airline called "crew". designated, restrictions were cancelled."
Farrell filed a claim for compensation, but the claim was denied due to staff shortages, the outlet reported.
A customer relations email to Farrell obtained by The Canadian Press states: "Because your Air Canada flight was delayed/cancelled due to crew restrictions due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations, the one you requested applies No compensation because the delay/cancellation was caused by a safety related issue."
Air Canada's response to Farrell is part of a company-wide policy directing employees to classify flight cancellations due to staff shortages as a "safety issue." This excludes travelers from accessing compensation under federal regulations, in line with the company's policy.
In Canada, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations require airlines to pay US$1,000 in compensation for cancellations or significant delays that are under the airline's control if notification is given 14 days or less before departure. Airlines do not have to make any payment if the change was required for security reasons.
In an email to The Canadian Press, the Canadian Transportation Agency said treating staff shortages as a safety issue violated federal regulations.
"If a crew shortage is due to the actions or omissions of the airline, the disruption will be considered a disruption within the control of the airline for the purposes of passenger protection regulations. Therefore, a disruption caused by a crew shortage should not be considered "necessary for safety reasons when it is the airline that caused the safety problem through its own actions," the agency said in an email to the news agency .
Gabor Lukacs, president of the Air Passenger Rights Advocacy Group, told the news organization that Canada's largest airline is unlawfully exploiting the federal regulation to avoid paying compensation and called on the Transportation Inspectorate for stronger enforcement.
In the US, according to the US Department of Transportation, there are no federal laws that require airlines to pay passengers money or other compensation when their flights are delayed.
The Canadian Press reported that Air Canada disagreed, stating, "Air Canada follows all public health guidelines as part of its safety culture, and during last winter's Omicron surge, which affected the availability of some crew members, we revised our policy to to better assist customers in their travels Improved customer care for flight cancellations related to crews feuding with COVID."
Air Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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