Aviation Showdown: Will The DOT Enforce Its Rules Against Air Canada?

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After the US DOT said in April that COVID-19 was not a valid excuse to steal money from your customers and then said in May that changing the rules for previously purchased tickets was an unfair and deceptive practice, most airlines around the world came into compliance.

Some, like El Al, only refunded money to passengers that complained about them to the DoT, while others like United decided to revert their policies back to what they were and offer refunds to everyone who asked.

And then there’s the crooks to our north, also known as Air Canada. The Canadian government has long limited outside competition to Canada to protect their flag carrier. Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar have long been frustrated by Canada’s protectionist policies.

But make no mistake, Canada isn’t protecting Canadians, they’re protecting Air Canada. Protectionist policies raise prices. But worse than that, the Canada Transportation Agency ruled that Canadian airlines did not have to refund passengers holding tickets on flights that Air Canada cancelled. No other transportation agency in the world decided to shaft consumers like that. That’s money out of Canadian citizens pockets when many need it the most.

But what about people with US flights?

The US, Europe, Israel, and other aviation regions have consumer protection aviation rules that apply to any airlines flying there.

In May, Air Canada wrote to people who filed DOT complaints that they are in compliance with US law, without explaining how they are in compliance.

Now, Air Canada has issued this response to a formal US DOT complaint from a Canadian citizen that was flying from Montreal to Chicago.

In it, they admit that they used to provide refunds for cancelled flights, but that they did so out of goodwill, not because their contract of carriage required them to do so. As of March 19th they removed their goodwill policy, so they didn’t actually change the official policy after the ticket purchase.

Air Canada says that as the purchaser lives in Bermuda and bought his ticket in Canadian dollars, that this case is beyond the DOT’s purview and rules. In essence they say that they are in compliance with Canadian rules, so the DOT should mind their own business and stay south of the border.

But Air Canada’s biggest claim is that the DOT’s COVID-19 guidance and enforcement notice aren’t actually enforceable, as it’s only guidance and not actual law.

If the DOT lets Air Canada get away with this, it may create a precedent that non-US airlines don’t need to abide by DOT rules. It may also have an effect on airlines around the world complying with local regulations.

If you’re stuck with a cancelled Air Canada flight, you should file a DOT complaint, just don’t expect positive results. You can still file a credit card dispute and you can take Air Canada to small claims court.

But going forward, know that if Air Canada cancels your flight that they will just keep your money. It’s the same reason I’ve heard from many travel agents that are now refusing to book their clients on El Al. Be sure to let companies behaving badly know that there are consequences for their actions. Vote with your wallet and give your business to airlines that are honest and will provide a refund if they cancel your flight.

Do you think the DOT will stand up to Air Canada with enforcement action or will they allow them to refuse refunds on cancelled flights?

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32 Comments On "Aviation Showdown: Will The DOT Enforce Its Rules Against Air Canada?"

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Maxi

I wonder how they will get away with cancelling the tickets to Australia, as they refused to honor the fair even after the DOT complaint.

ari

i disputed the charge right when corona started and i got last week confirmation from chase that the dispute is closed, which was great news.

Julie

Maxi I have filed a charge back through my Commbank MasterCard for cancelled flights from Vancouver to Sydney Australia. It’s being investigated now apparently so hoping to receive a refund for our cancelled flights in mid April 2020. We started from Paris so hoping because they were booked in EU but using my Australian credit card it will help.

chaim

how long after a flight is booked do you have to file a chargeback. Is it true that it is 120 days .If that is so then for many people it is outside that window.

Brenda Fry

If you were given a Future Travel Credit they won’t do a charge back. Depending on how you purchased your ticket you likely had to accept the terms and sign for the credit card charge. Plus most people book basic air which is non refundable so you should be happy you are getting anything.

Joe

It’s a shayla in lamdus. Do airlines have a din like Pesach programs because they serve meals, and so we can mon them for money back; or do they have a din like Yeshivos because their shmiras hasedarim, and they get to make up their own halachos?

Morty

How do airlines offer shmiras sedorim?

Moe

Doesn’t sound like Air Canada is even claiming they’re exempt from DOT regulations regarding American customers living in the US.

Gemarakop

El al and now air Canada is on my no fly list….

Michael

once air Canada fly’s into US Territory they are bound by US regulations and the DOT should work with CBP at all USA airports to suspend there departure space, until they fully comply with US regulations, it absolutely does not make any sense to allow them to get away with stealing money and Violating US LAW it should be enforced.

OD

Dan even if Air Canada is technically correct on the enforcement/law/advisory issue, DOT can also play hardball and make life difficult for the airline? Can DOT ban them from flying into the US for their non-compliance and/or impose other strict measures?

Dave

What happens when you book with Chase points? Chase says, “we are following what the airline says” No way to chargeback points. 🙁

Mogr

I have the same problem. A solution would be very appreciated as I’m talking about 200,000 points.

Mendy

Did the airline cancel or did you? If they canceled:
Call (again), ask for a refund and cite the DOT if needed.
File a DOT complaint.

Mogr

The airline. Call who? Elal? Lol
Chase? I’ve tried several times they keep saying we have to follow airline policy and when I say I want to dispute they transfer me to the regular CC department for normal disputes where they can’t dispute points.

Aaron

Are they straight up stealing the money or are they issuing a flight waiver?

zf

Porter Air also a Canadian airline (flies multiple flights a day between Newark and Toronto) did the same thing. They cancelled all flights offered by email a flight credit and closed down. Shut their phone lines and referred all callers to their website. They promised to re-open in June, now it is July.
I had a flight for a wedding (that never happened) right after Pesach. I didn’t bother with the airline, I did a chargeback with my Barclay Arrival card which was promptly allowed by the airline (P.s. the statement credit for the flight wasn’t withdrawn). Not a peep from the airline.
But my mother-in-law in Toronto had a ticket for a Tor-Ewr flight which she bought on a Canadian CBIC Bank credit card, she must of called 20 time over these months and they refused to chargebak the card, claiming “the poor airline” what are they to do. The Canadian banks are protecting their thieving airlines. Finally, she hit one sympathetic CSR who on hearing her out (retired, set income, can’t use the credit, it is against DOT laws, etc) they credited her CC pending no push back from the Porter Air. It has been a few weeks and she seems to have managed to keep the credit
Power of the HUCA

Bob

You should note that WestJet (also Canadian) IS refunding US origin or destination flights but not others (like my cancelled Caribbean trip)

Chesky L

I wish there was a DOT equivalent for Pesach programs that did not give back refunds but offered a credit for next year.

Lkwd girl

I wish there was a DOT equivalent for schools charging tuition and not offering anything!!

Gabor Lukacs

Great article. Would you consider adding Twitter meta code to your header (in addition to Open Graph) to allow a nice twitter card to appear when we are tweeting it out?

Gabor Lukacs

The following statement in the article is inaccurate: “But worse than that, the Canada Transportation Agency ruled that Canadian airlines did not have to refund passengers holding tickets on flights that Air Canada cancelled”

The Federal Court of Appeal found that it was not legally binding and even its authorship was in question — see Air Passenger Rights v. Canadian Transprotation Agency, 2020 FCA 92 at paras. 26-27 and 35.

https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fca/doc/2020/2020fca92/2020fca92.html#par26

Brenda Fry

Any air ticket purchased in Canada is getting Future Travel Vouchers whether it is Air Canada or American Airlines. DOT has nothing to do with it. In Ontario TICO ruled it is a satisfactory refund.

Geimex

TICO only regulated package vacations in Ontario. It doesn’t regulate airline tickets

Brian Richmond

The DOT should ban Canadian airlines from US air space, including flights that do not land in the US, until they refund cancelled flights back in the original method of payment.

deb

No… I do not think the USDOT will stand up to Air Canada , United et al, the US DOT is being complicit in this scheme to fund the now broken airline industry. When you think about it, airlines are using ponzie scheme tactic.. I book my trip in January for a July flight, they charge me , use my money for their “operations” then come July have no reserves to refund my money for a flight they canceled..

Kelly

Air Canada cancelled my flight under the guise Of an “itinerary change”. They cancelled my direct afternoon flight and put me on a morning flight with a layover in Toronto. I have tried repeatedly to cxl my flight both online and with an agent (insane wait times) to be told that I was eligible for a voucher (terms changed with each rep I talked to) and that I would not receive any confirmation that I have cancelled my flight. So, it appears as if my family of five is still flying with Air Canada in a couple of weeks. Passengers on flights looks great to management and stockholders, doesn’t it?? Too bad it’s not true in the case of our family.

I filed a complaint through department of transportation. Air Canada responded that I would not be receiving a refund, I should cxl my flight (never responded to the fact that I hadn’t been able to) and that they were following rules set by the Canadian government.

Sabine

I contacted air Canada and the booking site I used MULTIPLE TIMES before filing a DOT complaint to no avail. I’m currently disputing the charges with my credit card company. Air Canada is full of crooks.

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