An APPR claim with Air Canada

Like most countries now, Canada has regulations requiring passengers to be compensated for flight delays under certain circumstances; Canada's regulations are called the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (commonly known as "APPR"). In May 2023, I flew to and from BSDCan on Air Canada; on the way home, one of my flights was cancelled and Air Canada rebooked me for the following day.

I filed a request for compensation with Air Canada, but received a response indicating that the cancellation was due to "unforeseen maintenance" which was "required for safety purposes" and thus exempt from the compensation requirements. There were two appeal mechanisms available at this point: First, via the Canadian Transportation Agency — which theoretically reaches decisions within 90 days but has recently been reported to have a case backlog of over a year — and second, via small claims court. I opted to take Air Canada to small claims court — which in BC, means the online Civil Resolution Tribunal.

On July 13th 2023 I filed my initial claim for $1315 — $1000 of compensation for the flight delay, plus $315 because I was reboooked into "domestic business class" (regular seats) instead of the "signature class" (lie-flat seats) which I had originally booked:

On 2023-02-28 I booked flights with Air Canada from Vancouver to Ottawa on 2023-05-16 and returning from Ottawa to Vancouver via Toronto on 2023-05-21. The ticket was #014CENSORED and booking reference was CENSORED.

My return flights were originally AC455 (YOW-YYZ) and AC119 (YYZ-YVR) arriving in Vancouver at 2023-05-21 17:56; on 2023-05-12 I was notified that AC119 had been rescheduled from 16:00 to 17:00 (arriving at 18:56 instead of 17:56), and on 2023-05-16 I was further notified that AC119 was being cancelled and I was being rebooked to AC117, also departing at 17:00 and arriving at 18:56. I have no claim concerning these routine schedule adjustments.

On 2023-05-21 I took flight AC455 from Ottawa to Toronto as scheduled, but shortly before flight AC117 was scheduled to board, received a notification that "flight AC117/21 May from Toronto to Vancouver has been cancelled due to an unforeseen aircraft maintenance issue. We are actively looking to find an alternate flight and will update you shortly." Two hours later, I was rebooked to flight AC101 on the following morning, and arrived in Vancouver at approximately 08:30 AM, about 13.5 hours after my original scheduled return.

I filed a claim under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations via the Air Canada website on 2023-05-26, and the website indicated that "We're sorry but this flight is cancelled due to unexpected business or operational constraints on our planned flight schedule". On 2023-05-27, I received an email from Air Canada stating that "This flight was delayed due to unforeseen maintenance that does not include scheduled maintenance or mechanical problems identified during scheduled maintenance." and denying my claim for compensation on the grounds that the flight cancellation was "required for safety purposes".

I dispute Air Canada's claim, on the basis that the aircraft scheduled to operate flight AC117 on May 21st -- registration C-GFUR -- proceeded to depart later on May 21st for Bogota, operating flight AC94. While Air Canada may have had an unforeseen safety-related aircraft maintenance issue on a different Airbus 330-300, the aircraft scheduled for the cancelled flight AC117 was in fact operating (presumably safely!) and could have been used to operate the flight as initially scheduled; it was in fact Air Canada's operational choice to cancel flight AC117 in order to use that aircraft to operate AC94 instead.

Since there was no safety-related issue preventing AC117 from operating, per paragraph 19(1)(a)(iii) of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, I am entitled to $1000 compensation.

Furthermore, my flight from YYZ to YVR was originally booked in Air Canada "signature class", with lie-flat seats ("pods"), while the flight on which I was rebooked (AC101) had regular "domestic business class". Per paragraph 17(6) of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, I am entitled to a refund of "the difference in the cost of the applicable portion of the ticket", namely $300 + GST.

As such, under the APPR I am entitled to compensation of $1315 plus interest and any relevant fees under the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal Act.

On August 16th, Air Canada's lawyer responded, essentially saying "we deny everything".

Next up in the CRT process is "negotiation", which basically didn't happen; I sent a message via the CRT website explaining again why I was entitled to compensation, but Air Canada didn't respond. So we moved on to the following stage ("facilitation") where a Tribunal representative scheduled a conference call between us.

That call was scheduled for 9 AM on January 10th, and as soon as it started Air Canada's lawyer spoke up: "We've looked into this further, and Air Canada is prepared to pay Colin the $1315 he is claiming". They didn't agree to pay the $75 CRT filing fee, which theoretically I could have recovered if I continued through the process; but getting $1315 was good enough for me, so I agreed to take the money and drop the CRT claim.

My lessons learned, for the benefit of any of my readers facing similar flight delays and cancellations:

  1. The Air Passenger Protection Regulations work!
  2. If you're in BC, the Civil Resolution Tribunal is fantastic. Hopefully other provinces will set up similar bodies soon.
  3. If your flight is cancelled, use a site like flightradar24 to see which plane was scheduled for your flight and what it is doing instead. If it spends the next couple days on the ground, it probably needed maintenance — but if it flies somewhere else, you probably have a case that it wasn't really in need of urgent safety-related maintenance.
  4. Be patient and don't give up.

Safe travels, and I hope I'll see some of my readers at this year's BSDCan — hopefully without any flight delays!

Posted at 2024-01-10 17:55 | Permanent link | Comments

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