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Canada’s air passenger rights law criticized by court after $ 400 claim took a year and a half, then failed

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Canada’s air passenger rights law criticized by court after $ 400 claim took a year and a half, then failed

It also raises questions about whether Air Canada, which just received a $ 5.9 billion government bailout, should fight $ 400 refunds for 18 months at a time.

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A Nova Scotia court dismissal of a claim for reimbursement for a canceled flight says the plane carries more on Canada’s new air passenger rights law than the value of a delay in mid-winter fun at Disney World.

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In the end, passenger Darrell Geddes did not get the Air Canada refund he was seeking because his plane traveling from Halifax to Orlando, Florida, arrived more than five hours late in January of last year. He received a food voucher.

That obviously left him less than satisfied, but brave enough to try to obtain compensation through the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), enacted in 2019 by the Canadian Transportation Agency, the country’s quasi-judicial regulator on how people get from one place to another. Nearly a thousand papers were exchanged in the one-and-a-half-year process, expert witnesses on the plane’s maintenance and scheduling were subpoenaed, and Halifax Small Claims Court Judge Darrel Pink wrote a decision of more than 50 paragraphs, posted on Friday. All for $ 400 up for grabs on the possible refund.

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Pink attacked the bureaucracy. “When consumer protection is the expected outcome of a regulatory regime, it must be assumed that the regime will be in plain language, easy to understand, and that it supports a simple claims process,” Pink wrote. “The APPR, which was intended to achieve greater passenger rights, does not fulfill any of these.

“The language is complex and legalistic; detailed or specific knowledge is required to invoke the complaints system; and the process to seek compensation, once invoked, does not lend itself to a quick resolution, “said the awardee. Few people would go to such lengths to seek a few hundred dollars in compensation. Even if they wanted to, few could make such a claim. “

APPR says a passenger is entitled to compensation of $ 400 if a flight with a reservation change arrives more than three hours after the originally scheduled landing. Air Canada denied Geddes’ initial claim, saying the delay was caused by an event beyond its control. Later in court, he said the event outside his control required maintenance for safety reasons.

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The case hinged on determining whether Air Canada had control over the event that led to the flight’s cancellation, which required Geddes to rebook on a later departure. If the airline had control, it would have to pay the refund.

“Coming to a conclusion on this took a considerable amount of time, effort and resources,” Pink wrote. “Which may have been essential, but it clearly shows that the APPR has not provided a consumer-friendly environment.”

All of that raises questions about whether Air Canada, which secured a $ 5.9 billion government bailout in April that includes a $ 500 million equity stake for Ottawa, should fight $ 400 refunds for 18 months at a time. The industry and the feds appear to be looking for some kind of legal precedent, which is dubious from a small claims court but is being appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, to transfer more airline travel expenses from companies to passengers.

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“This is a regulation written by the airlines for the airlines,” Gábor Lukács, founder and president of Air Passengers Rights, a Halifax-based traveler advocacy group, said by phone from a holiday in Budapest on Sunday. “It shows that the government is in the pocket of the airlines.”

Lukács criticized the APPR in this presentation when it was proposed several years ago.

“In Europe it is very simple and straightforward. Maintenance issues are the responsibility of the airline and they must pay compensation for such cancellations. End of story. “

The only exceptions are if a maintenance issue arises due to acts of terrorism, an aircraft grounding, or a natural disaster such as a volcanic eruption, said Lukács, who represented Geddes in APPR and small claims court proceedings.

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Pink’s ruling reads as if the decision could almost have been the other way around. The adjudicator said the APPR shows that an airline that cancels a flight due to maintenance must pay compensation.

The propeller-powered DASH-8 scheduled on the first leg of Geddes’s planned trip from Halifax to Boston had struggled with an engine warning light for nearly a week, according to the bug. The plane was grounded at 10:45 pm on January 30 for repairs. Geddes’s flight was due to depart at 7:55 am the next morning.

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The maintenance team replaced a sensor. The job log says it took less than three hours. But it apparently hadn’t been completed by the 3 a.m. deadline to order another plane from Toronto or Montreal to replace the plane under repair.

“What is puzzling is why such a repair could not be done in the eight hours between 11:00 pm the day before and 7:00 am on the day of Mr. Geddes’ flight,” Lukács told the Financial Post. “Air Canada did not present evidence to explain why, no testimony from anyone present.”

Pink appeared to be swayed by the testimony of Randolph Sharp, in charge of repairs to the DASH-8 fleet. Sharp said the job likely took more than three hours, that intermittent problems like the warning light can be difficult to identify, and that there was an unusual situation where another aircraft needed to be repaired that same night. Geddes should have provided more evidence to support his claim that the job could have been completed faster, Pink said.

Geddes appealed the small claims court verdict, so this Airport ’77 facility is far from final speed. In the meantime, if an airline breakdown leaves passengers stranded or delayed, your rights are to arm yourself with technical manuals and take your own mechanic into battle. That’s not Mickey Mouse, whether or not he’s heading to Orlando.

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In-depth reports on the economics of innovation from The Logic, presented in association with the Financial Post.

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