These travelers say they were involuntarily denied boarding. Were they?

A baggage handler was late to work one day, delaying an Air Canada flight and setting off a chain of events that caused Janice and David Beebe to miss their flight.

At least that’s what they tell us in their request for our help. But we haven’t been able to locate any confirmation that their flight delay was the result of a tardy baggage handler. Their story is one of regret for our advocates, who weren’t able to assist the Beebes to get their desired resolution.

The Beebes and their two grandchildren were flying from Thunder Bay, Canada, to Tampa, Fla., via Toronto. Their flight from Thunder Bay to Toronto was delayed, and they missed their connecting flight to Tampa.

“We had gone through security before I was informed that we couldn’t get on board because our bag wasn’t on board,” says David Beebe.

Air Canada placed the Beebes on the next available flight to Tampa, which was scheduled to depart eight hours later. This forced the Beebes and their grandchildren to spend the next eight hours in the Toronto airport.

The Beebes wrote to Air Canada to complain about their treatment, asking for a refund of their airfares of 2,400 Canadian dollars ($1,816). They received an apology from Air Canada and an offer of a goodwill gesture of 25 percent off the base cost of a future flight.

But the Beebes were not happy with this offer. As David Beebe pointed out in his response, “The delay is no fault of ours and with two grandchildren to entertain for eight hours, I feel the compensation should be better than 25 percent off a base fare.” He also asked if the late baggage handler was reprimanded.

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Unfortunately for the Beebes, Air Canada denied them any additional compensation. Janice Beebe then contacted our advocacy team.

Are the Beebes correct that they should have received a full refund?

Part of the reason that they were not offered one may be that in their letter to Air Canada, they referred to “Rule 100 — Denied Boarding” in Air Canada’s domestic tariff. But because their flight was international, the Beebes’ situation would be covered under Rule 90 of Air Canada’s international tariff, which provides that:

Carrier-Caused Refunds
(1) For the purpose of this paragraph, the term “Carrier-Caused Refund” (sometimes referred to as “Involuntary Refund”) shall mean any refund for reasons within the carrier’s control made in the event the passenger is prevented from using the provided for in his/her ticket. For example, because delay or cancellation of flight within carrier’s control, inability to provide previously confirmed space (denied boarding), substitution of a different type of equipment or to a lower class of service by carrier (downgrade) other than upon passenger’s request, missed connections due to schedule irregularity within carrier’s control, or omission of a scheduled stop due to a situation within carrier’s control.
(2) Amount of Carrier-Caused Refunds
The amount of involuntary refunds will be as follows, unless otherwise provided elsewhere in this tariff and subject to applicable law:
a) When no portion of the trip has been made, or when due to a schedule irregularity within carrier’s control, and passenger chooses to no longer travel and return to point of origin, a full refund will be issued.
b) When a portion of the trip has been made, the amount of refund of the unused portion will be prorated based on mileage.

The Beebes would indeed be entitled to a refund if they hadn’t been able to continue on their trip. However, Air Canada did place them on the next available flight. Unfortunately for the Beebes, that was all Air Canada was required to do. As annoying as an eight-hour wait with two children in an airport can be, it doesn’t entitle the Beebes to any additional compensation — even though the delay was not their fault.

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We wish we could give the Beebes a better answer. But because we only have their word that the delay was due to an airline employee’s tardiness, we aren’t going to be able to get a better resolution for them than the one Air Canada offered. We hope they enjoyed the rest of their trip with no further mishaps.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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