‘This is really upsetting’: Inconvenienced airline passengers struggle to get compensation under new rules

Canada’s new air passenger safety laws promise as much as $2,400 in compensation for purchasers denied boarding; nonetheless, some passengers have discovered that they should do battle with their airline to gather their money. 

That was the case for Chelsea Williamson who lastly acquired her denied boarding compensation from WestJet one week in the past — solely after complaining to the Canadian Transportation Company (CTA). 

“[WestJet] called me, and they did say that they made a mistake,” stated Williamson, who lives in Edmonton. “It stinks that they weren’t willing to co-operate with me this way before I actually filed a complaint.”

The CTA stories it has obtained 147 passenger complaints regarding denied boarding points for the reason that new guidelines got here into impact on July 15. Sixty-seven of the complaints contain Air Canada and 24 contain WestJet, whereas the remaining are scattered amongst 27 different airways.

Shopper advocate John Lawford stated the complaints are inevitable, each due to airways adjusting to the brand new guidelines, and what he believes is a reluctance amongst some carriers to embrace the laws — which embrace hefty compensation for mishaps, reminiscent of misplaced baggage and flight delays. 

It is early days, however I nonetheless see some reticence on the a part of the airways.– John Lawford, government director of Public Curiosity Advocacy Centre

“It’s early days, but I still see some reticence on the part of the airlines,” stated Lawford, government director of the Public Curiosity Advocacy Centre.

‘We failed to satisfy our obligations’

All the key Canadian airways have informed CBC Information they intend to completely adjust to the laws. 

However Williamson felt WestJet wasn’t enjoying truthful after she and her husband have been bumped from their flight on July 22. As an alternative of receiving the $900 every in compensation they believed they have been owed, the airline supplied them $250 in journey vouchers.

The couple’s journey started once they tried to board the primary leg of their flight from Edmonton to Venice and have been informed that WestJet had switched the plane to a smaller one, so they’d misplaced their confirmed seats.  

 “We must have been at the bottom of their boarding priority list,” stated Williamson. 

The newlyweds have been on their honeymoon and, as a result of they have been placed on a later flight, they arrived in Venice round 5 hours later than anticipated.

Williamson and her husband on their honeymoon in Italy. The couple misplaced a day of sightseeing after they have been bumped from their WestJet flight leaving Edmonton. (Submitted by Chelsea Williamson)

Below the brand new laws, denied boarding passengers are entitled to $900 for a delay underneath six hours.

However when Williamson complained to WestJet by electronic mail and demanded compensation, she was informed the couple did not qualify as a result of their rebooking was a pre-planned schedule change. 

When Williamson argued that their “schedule change” occurred last-minute, the airline responded that it was really categorised as a flight delay or cancellation.

I was getting a special reply from WestJet each time I contacted them.– Chelsea Williamson

“I was getting a different answer from WestJet every time I contacted them.”

After submitting the criticism, WestJet finally paid Williamson and her husband $900 every and supplied an apology. 

“Following an internal investigation, we recognized that we failed to meet our obligations to these guests,” stated spokesperson Morgan Bell in an electronic mail to CBC Information. 

Williamson’s case has triggered a CTA investigation into whether or not WestJet’s insurance policies on flight modifications adjust to the brand new laws. The airline stated it is co-operating with the inquiry. 

Marc Belanger of Prince George, B.C., holds a $2,400 cheque from Air Canada for being denied boarding. The cash arrived greater than eight weeks after the incident. (Submitted by Marc Belanger)

Present me the cash

Marc Belanger of Prince George, B.C., additionally found gathering his compensation wasn’t a simple course of. 

He and his spouse have been denied boarding on the primary leg of their Air Canada flight from Prince George to Quebec Metropolis on July 19.

As a result of the airplane was overbooked, and the 2 have been placed on a later flight — delaying their arrival by greater than 13 hours — Air Canada promised them every $2,400 in compensation: the quantity that should be paid when denied boarding passengers are delayed by greater than 9 hours. 

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s nice,'” Belanger stated. 

However he started to lose religion when the cash did not materialize the next month. In mid-August, he stated he complained by telephone and by electronic mail to Air Canada, and when the money nonetheless hadn’t arrived by September, he contacted CBC Information.

“It’s such a little amount of money for a company that size. I don’t understand what the problem is,” stated Belanger. “This is really upsetting.”

In line with the brand new laws, passengers should obtain compensation inside 48 hours of being denied boarding.

With any new laws of such complexity it’s only cheap to anticipate that originally, in some circumstances, interpretation of the brand new guidelines and processing might generally take time.– Peter Fitzpatrick, Air Canada spokesperson

Air Canada informed CBC Information that the compensation had been despatched. Belanger did lastly obtain two cheques totalling  $4,800 on Monday — greater than eight weeks after he and his spouse have been denied boarding. 

“I don’t think it’s acceptable,” stated Belanger, who believes that he might by no means have obtained the money if he hadn’t complained.

When requested in regards to the delay in compensation, which contravenes the brand new guidelines, Air Canada responded that it is dedicated to full compliance, however that, inevitably, there will be some hiccups as airways alter to the lengthy checklist of laws. 

“With any new regulations of such complexity it is only reasonable to expect that initially, in some cases, interpretation of the new rules and processing may sometimes take time,” stated spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick, in an electronic mail.

Extra complaints to return?

Lawford believes the CTA shall be swamped with complaints from passengers following the brand new laws, the second a part of which, masking delays and cancellations, take impact in mid-December.

To manage, he believes the company must create a streamlined course of to deal with the deluge of sad passengers attempting to gather their money.

“There has to be a very efficient, call-centre based, neutral section that does these complaints and is sitting there, waiting for them,” Lawford stated. 

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