A few minutes late to the airport cost her hundreds of dollars — is this right?

Van Le’s daughter didn’t make her flight. And it cost her.

She had a nonrefundable Air Canada ticket to fly from Portland to Montreal for an athletic competition. But she arrived late and was turned away, and forfeited her $537 ticket.

“My husband drove my daughter to the airport and was delayed by traffic,” explains Le. “My daughter arrived at the departure gate seven minutes too late to board the flight.”

The gate agent didn’t book her on the next flight out. Instead she asked us to go online and buy a new ticket.

“My daughter had to take the next flight to make it in time for the competition. The new ticket cost $937. We were also charged a $200 change fee,” says Le.

Several days later, Le phoned Air Canada to complain.

“A representative told me to request a refund for the second ticket and change fee,” she says. “Air Canada only returned the $200 change fee.”

Le thinks Air Canada can do better.

But can it?

When Le bought a nonrefundable ticket, she agreed to Air Canada’s restrictions on the use of the ticket. When her daughter arrived too late to board the flight, Air Canada charged her a $200 change fee and the price of a more expensive walk-up ticket.

Le understood that the ticket was nonrefundable, but didn’t understand why Air Canada didn’t just charge the $200 change fee to the original $537 ticket. She didn’t understand why she had to buy a new ticket and pay a $200 change fee for a new ticket.

At first, our advocates didn’t understand either.

Le could have posted a query to our help forums, which are staffed by travel industry experts, and often read by company executives. Our forum advocates may have had helpful suggestions for her. And, she could have tried to escalate her complaint by directly contacting executives of Air Canada. We list company contact information for Air Canada on our website.

When our advocates reviewed Le’s tickets and receipts, it became clear that she was charged for the much more expensive walk-up ticket, but Air Canada allowed about $400 of the value of the original ticket to be applied to the new ticket. And it charged a $200 change fee for applying the value to the new ticket. After Le complained, and as a goodwill gesture, Air Canada waived the change fee and credited it back to Le’s credit card.

So, in the end, the seven-minute delay cost Le an additional $561. Waiving the $200 change fee was the best that she could get from Air Canada.

Hey Air Canada, ever hear of the flat tire rule?

Is Air Canada's waiver of the $200 change fee enough compensation?

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