BC couples win compensation after canceled honeymoon


Airline Passenger Protection Regulations, enacted in 2019, helped the BC couple receive compensation for inconveniences and expenses they paid when WestJet canceled their flights.

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A Burnaby couple whose Jamaican honeymoon was canceled at the last minute by WestJet has been compensated under a little-known federal passenger rights regulation, and a lawyer says it should serve as an example to other passengers whose flights are delayed or canceled.

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Ryan Alguire said he and his wife felt cheated after two days of their trip to Montego Bay in August when WestJet delayed their departure for 48 hours citing a staff shortage. They had to cancel the WestJet flight and rebook on Air Canada, to travel the next day.

What annoyed Alguire the most was that WestJet did not notify them of the cancellation until they heard about it by checking online on the way to the airport. He thought, “that can not be right.”

He found Air Passenger Rights (Canada) Facebook page , where he learned that Canada protects the rights of air passengers with the Airline Passenger Protection Regulations, adopted in 2019.

The rules include the right to compensation for passengers when an airline delays or cancels a flight for a reason beyond the control of an airline, including those arising from commercial decisions or those relating to day-to-day operations, such as flight maintenance or personnel plans. It also includes an airline’s obligation to rebook passengers on canceled flights within a certain time, if necessary on a competing airline.

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These two rights under APPR are “probably the least known and least publicized rights of passengers,” said Gabor Lukacs, founder and president of the Air Passenger Rights Group (Canada).

“Airlines are trying to blame the cancellations on COVID – these cancellations relate to poor staffing and hiring decisions that are within the airline’s control,” he said in an email. “They are not aviation safety related” – such as an oil leak – and are therefore not necessarily beyond the control of an airline.

Passengers should know their rights – which are enshrined in common law and Canadian and provincial law – and know how to pursue them, Lukacs said.

“Ryan’s story shows that standing up, buying a ticket from another airline and then forcing the original airline to pay up is the way to go,” he said. He said WestJet should have rebooked the pair on the Air Canada flight at the time.

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The couple filed a claim with WestJet for the difference in the price of the Air Canada flight, the overnight stay at a hotel in Toronto with that flight, which was not necessary with the WestJet flight, baggage fees and compensation for the delay.

The airline, “with a lot of legal jargon,” denied all allegations, claiming that staff shortages were a safety issue and therefore exempted WestJet from compensating them under the rules.

The couple then filed a small claims case in BC’s civil resolution court. During a conference call with the court mediator and a WestJet lawyer, the airline agreed to pay, including $ 400 each, for the hassle of the cancellation, and a hearing was not necessary.

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“We had to jump through some hangers,” Alguire said. “But it was 100 percent worth it.”

He said he hopes his story will help others learn about airline passengers’ rights.

“This was not fair,” said Alguire, who added that airlines are legislated to do better and do not.

“That was my motivating factor” in pursuing a claim, Alguire said.

WestJet did not respond to a request for comment.

Its website includes a section on how to proceed with a claim for compensation for canceled or delayed flights.

Reasons for delay or cancellation considered beyond the control of an airline will include weather, a medical emergency, security threat, wildlife collision, war, labor disputes, or manufacturing defects, according to the Airline Passenger Protection Regulations website.

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