WestJet denied Canadian traveller compensation for delayed flight. How he managed to get refunded

By Erick Espinosa

It’s no secret that Canada’s air passenger protection rights fall short compared to other parts of the world.

This year has only highlighted those gaps as we continue to see an influx of passengers denied compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.

Ken Conrad is one of those passengers.

In May, he received an email from WestJet notifying him that his scheduled return flight from Glasgow to Halifax was cancelled and that he had been re-booked for a flight the following day.

That email informed Conrad he could be entitled to compensation, providing him with a link that took him directly to WestJet’s Canadian “submit claim” page.

“I entered the information, and I assumed it would be pretty open and shut that I would get a thousand dollars in compensation because the delay was more than nine hours,” he explained to CityNews.

“After about 30 days, the claim was processed, and I got a message saying it was denied.”

According to WestJet, because the delay was due to unplanned aircraft maintenance citing safety issues that were outside of the airline’s control, passengers on that flight were not entitled to compensation.

But Conrad recalled a European passenger claims form on the airline’s website almost identical to the Canadian Air Passenger Protection Regulations form he had just submitted.

RELATED: Hundreds of Canadians left stranded for hours at Punta Cana airport

“I filled out a second claim form on WestJet’s website,” the Halifax resident said. “It was the same information I entered before but had a better result this time.”

Conrad received an email confirming that his claim had been accepted and that he would receive €600 in compensation.

Canadian Transportation Agency no stranger to complaints

Phrases such as “an unforeseen maintenance issue,” “staffing constraints,” and “health and safety initiatives” seem to be the common responses by Canadian airlines found in the vast majority of rejected claims.

It has left many feeling they’ve received inadequate reasons for denied compensation, with the airline providing no actual evidence or details to passengers beyond that it was outside of their control.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is no stranger to receiving complaints from passengers questioning why an airline rejected them compensation for delayed flights.

In early 2020, the agency launched an official inquiry into complaints from air passengers alleging that airlines are not accurately communicating the reasons for flight delays or cancellations.

This year from June 1 to July 22, the CTA received 3,090 complaints related to flight disruptions.

“The complaints have not been vetted yet, so we cannot drill down further at this time to see how many of them were due to denied compensation,” the agency told CityNews.

According to Flight Aware, a platform that collects global flight data, between June 1 to July 18, more than 53 per cent of flights departing from Toronto Pearson arrived late at their destinations, ranking the airport number one in the world of the top 100 for delayed flights.

Current air passenger rights regulations state that airlines must provide compensation for flight cancellations and delays of three hours or more if the disruption is within their control and not related to safety and if the airline notified you of the disruption 14 days or less in advance.

Under the new regulations taking effect on September 8, 2022, airlines will be required to rebook a passenger affected by a cancellation or a lengthy delay due to a situation outside the airline’s control on a flight leaving within 48 hours of the departure time indicated on the passenger’s original ticket.

If the airline cannot provide a confirmed reservation for a flight leaving within this 48-hour period, it will be required to provide, at the passenger’s choice, a refund or rebooking.

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