Air Canada, Here's Some Tough Love
Knowing my rights helped me get back to Canada in time for Valentine's

Daniela Norris February 11, 2024

I write these lines from a room at a Charles-de-Gaulle airport hotel, where I await my direct Air Canada flight to Montreal. I must admit, I love flying with Air Canada. After many years of flying all over the world for business and also pleasure, after working as a flight attendant in my youth for five years or so, now I don't really have to fly. I fly when I want to, and I choose my airline well, just like my wine (full disclosure: cheap wine gives me a headache, so I prefer not to drink at all over drinking cheap wine).

I like to relax on my flight with a movie, read a book, or even better, work on my own next book. I have travelled pretty much on every airline (deliberately avoiding some dodgy ones over the years) and now I usually choose Air Canada mainly because amongst all the other airlines, I do like their customer service and reliability. I like the way they look after their customers: Flight cancelled? We will book you on the next one. Their agents are well informed and generally very helpful, but... and here's a big ‘but’: you need to know your rights.

I booked a flight with Air Canada from Montreal to Tel Aviv to attend a wedding. The wedding was postponed from November 2023 to January 2024 because of the war, and when Air Canada announced they would be resuming their flights to Tel Aviv in mid-January 2024, I immediately bought a ticket. Then, Air Canada decided they are not flying to Tel Aviv in January 2024 after all, and they rebooked me on flights to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt (Frankfurt-Tel Aviv-Frankfurt with their partner airline Lufthansa). Fair enough and nothing wrong with that. I understand Air Canada's decision and do not particularly mind spending an evening in Frankfurt en-route to Tel Aviv. And after all, Air Canada looked after me, right?

Except that Lufthansa went on strike while I was still in Tel Aviv and needed to get back to Canada. Now, a strike of the airline’s own employees is not a ‘force-majeure’ or ‘exceptional circumstances’ under EU law, but it is deemed ‘outside the carrier's control’ under Canada's poorly designed Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR). But - and here is the second big ‘but’: When my Tel-Aviv to Frankfurt flight with Lufthansa was cancelled (flashback: a flight which Air Canada booked me on, because they cancelled their own direct flight in the first place), I called Air Canada to rebook and they tried to wash their hands of me.

“Call Lufthansa,” they said. Now, Lufthansa is on strike, right? Their next flight out of Tel Aviv is in three days, and even that is uncertain because... well, there is a strike. Plus, my contract is with you, Air Canada, remember? I bought my ticket from you, you cancelled your flight, you put me on Lufthansa. Please don't ghost me now.

Fortunately, I am a member of the Air Passengers Rights (Canada) Facebook group, because I believe that information is power. A quick post fetched a helpful reply: If Air Canada is unable to rebook me on its own or its partners' flights to depart within 48 hours of my original departure time, then Air Canada must rebook me on a flight of a competitor airline. I was even given a precise reference to the law to review and cite: paragraph 18(1.1)(a) of the APPR. If the agent on the phone was not aware of this, hopefully their supervisor would be.

I quickly do a search to see which airlines are currently flying out of Tel Aviv, and see that Air France has a flight to Paris the next day. Yes, the French are big on strikes too, but they do not appear to be striking this week. Great! I also know that there are daily flights from Paris to Montreal - usually several a day, with different airlines. Another quick search showed that the Air France flight to Paris the next day was bookable on the Air France website - it means that it is not full, right?

It took some insistence and persistence - when the agent said I should call Lufthansa as she cannot help me, I promptly asked the agent to speak to her supervisor. Guessing the supervisor simply could not dismiss my infallible logic and the specific paragraph of the law.

And so, the supervisor authorized the agent to book me on this flight to Paris, where I am now enjoying my croissant and trying not to make crumbs on the bedspread. And, waiting for a flight of my beloved Air Canada, direct, Paris to Montreal, tomorrow at noon. Bliss.

To be honest, I quite fancy Air France too. They are a good airline and I love French accents, French food, and French wine (not the cheap variety!). So, next time Air Canada tries to ghost me, I know I have another option.

Oh, and the wedding was amazing, despite the pain in everyone’s hearts over the current situation. The bride and groom looked spectacular, thanks for asking. Happy Valentine's!

Take Away

  • Information is power! Know your rights.
  • Always do your research, check online which flights you would like to be rebooked on.
  • For flight disruptions ‘outside the carrier’s control’, the airline must rebook you on a flight of a competitor if they cannot rebook you on a flight of their own or their partners that departs within 48 hours of your original departure time  (APPR,  s. 18(1.1) (a)).

(Photo credit: Dor Luvaton/Aviv Shveka @aviv_shveka)