Who should fix this misconnection: Air Canada, Priceline – or no one?

Ed Kornowski’s case may be a lost cause.

Everyone involved in his missed connection — from Air Canada to British Airways to his online agency, Priceline — seems to be letting themselves off the hook. I’d like to help, but something tells me this is one of those times when no one is to blame.

A reminder: Since this is Monday, I’m bringing you a completely unvetted Can This Trip Be Saved? case. I haven’t reached out to any of the travel companies yet. In fact, I’m not even sure who to reach out to, if anyone.

Kornowski’s recent Air Canada flight from Toronto to London had a 1½ hour weather delay. As a result, the missed his British Airways connection to Morocco and was stranded in London for two days without any vouchers or hotel rooms. Neither Air Canada, British Airways nor Priceline, the online agency through which he booked the flights, will will assume responsibility for reimbursement of money spent while stranded.

“I have been working on getting compensation for two months,” he says.

Kornowski publishes a travel blog and has also described the flight ordeal on his site.

Let’s go straight to the emails. In his initial complaint to Air Canada, he offers specifics on his outbound flight: Air Canada flight 858 on June 17. Although he appears to have had a “legal” connection to his Marrakesh flight, with time enough to make the connection even with the delay, an additional delay at customs ensured he would not make it.

“I know that incidents like this are covered under the European Commission Passenger Rights due to delay,” he says. “So I set about trying to solve this dilemma right there.”

Here’s the text of EU 261, the regulation to which he’s referring. British Airways’ own rules suggest he may have been entitled to some compensation on the ground.

The next available flight to Marrakesh didn’t leave for two more days, according to British Airways. Might as well make yourself comfortable — at your own expense.

Repeated calls to Air Canada and Priceline didn’t yield a better result. He found an EasyJet flight the next day, but still incurred expenses, including a new flight, one night’s lodging, meals and transportation, for a total of $709. He asked Air Canada to compensate him.

Here’s how the airline responded:

Thank you for your email. We appreciate the time you have taken to write to us and that you included Air Canada in your recent travel.

Air Canada works hard to be ready for weather challenges while transporting over 100,000 passengers a day. Careful planning by our expert operational departments helps us cope with the havoc Mother Nature can throw our way.

The safety of our customers and employees is always our top priority but we know how frustrating disruptions can be. Considerable efforts are made to take care of our customers and we expect that our employees will do their best to help during these situations. We’re sorry your travel was disrupted.

As a gesture of goodwill, we are pleased to offer you a one time promo code saving of 10% off of the base fare on your next booking at aircanada.com. Details of your promo code are below.

Airlines cannot be held responsible for inclement weather. However, Air Canada provides one night hotel to passengers who are diverted or at a connection point. Eligible passengers not provided vouchers can claim up to CAD100.00 in accordance with our policy.

If you are eligible for this expense and were not provided a hotel accommodation voucher, please forward the original hotel receipt with your file reference for our consideration to:

Air Canada Customer Relations
PO Box 64239
RPO Thorncliffe
Calgary, Alberta T2K 6J7

Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to another opportunity to welcome you on board.

He appealed, citing the inconvenience caused by Air Canada’s delay. Kornowski not only lost a night’s lodging in Morocco, but he also had to pay a walk-up fare to get to his final destination the next day. He felt like he wasn’t asking for the moon.

Air Canada sent him two $300 vouchers for future flights. For him, that still wasn’t enough.

I’m as frustrated as Kornowski. Technically, no one has to do anything to help him. Air Canada has already offered more than it should have, if I’m reading its contract of carriage and EU 261 correctly.

Would travel insurance have helped? Maybe, but he didn’t have any.

And that brings up duty of care. If I buy a ticket from point “A” to point “B” on an airline, and it codeshares or interlines with another one, then where does its responsibility begin and end? Where do customers believe it ends? What role, if any, does an online travel agency like Priceline play in the equation?

Something tells me the $300 vouchers are about as good as it’s going to get. But I know if this had been my flight, and I was traveling with my family, I’d be unhappy. And while the airline industry may have its reasons for limiting the compensation it offers customers when flights go awry — and while these reasons may be completely legal and justifiable — they still feel wrong.

Should I mediate Ed Kornowski's case with Air Canada?

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