A Calgary woman’s plans to visit New York City in April underwent an unwelcome hiccup after the airline adjusted her flight schedule, altering the days she’d be in the Big Apple.
In December, Susan Bernstein booked a return trip with direct flights between Calgary and Newark, New Jersey during an Air Canada seat sale.
Two months after booking, Bernstein received an email indicating her schedule had changed. She’ll now arrive in New Jersey seven hours later than her original arrival time and she would be flying home a full day later than planned.
“I lost a whole day in New York and, on the way back, are they going to pay for an extra night in a hotel in New York?,” asked Bernstein.
The Calgarian contacted Air Canada and was told she could change her flights to non-direct Air Canada flights or request a refund.
Unsatisfied with her options, Bernstein researched Air Canada’s International Tariff, the rules that govern the airline-passenger contract, and discovered Rule 80 c (4)(f) that states, when reasonable, the airline should purchase the passenger a ticket on another carrier.
In Bernstein’s case, WestJet offered a flight matching her original itinerary.
Bernstein called Air Canada, with the assistance of a passengers rights advocate, and recorded the conversation. During the call, the Air Canada customer service representative refused to acknowledge that rule.
“We keep going over and over the same things and I can't help you unless you make a decision on what you want to do with the ticket,” said the unnamed Air Canada employee in the recording. “As I said, give us a call back when you decide what you want to do with your ticket?.”
Bernstein says she asked to speak to a supervisor but the call was abruptly halted.
CTV Calgary Consumer Watch reporter Lea Williams-Doherty contacted Air Canada on Bernstein’s behalf asking for an explanation as to why Air Canada failed to adhere to its rule.
In a statement to CTV Calgary, Air Canada spokesperson Isabelle Arthur cited a relevant Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) decision:
“Air Canada's tariff does acknowledge the possibility of rerouting customers on another carrier but this does not mean that this applies in all instances. It should also be noted that the CTA decision does not imply that we have to systematically rebook customers on other airlines every time."
Bernstein is left to question, if it doesn't apply to her, then who does the rule help?
Passengers who believe airlines aren't following the rules set out in their tariffs can file a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency.
With files from CTV’s Lea Williams-Doherty