Passengers Awarded $2,000 For Flight Delay, Airline Takes Them To Court

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Air Canada says it has no choice but to take two customers to court to fight a $2,000 award they received from a government agency that adjudicates airline complaints. Last November, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) ordered Air Canada to pay Andrew Dyczkowski and his now-wife Anna the maximum award of $1,000 each for a 24-hour delay in their flight from Vancouver to Costa Rica. The CTA said the delay was Air Canada’s fault and awarded the money.

But Air Canada says the delay was primarily due to bad weather and that’s why it’s fighting the award in court. Weather delays don’t qualify for compensation because they are out of the airline’s control and Air Canada said it can’t let this precedent stand. It had to sue the customers because of the way the law works in these cases. Customers also have the option of going to court if they don’t like a CTA decision, but the CTA itself cannot be sued.

In any case, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that it won’t try to recover its legal fees, which will far exceed the $2,000 award, from the Dyczkowskis. He said the airline is trying to get clarity on the CTA’s process in ruling in their favor and this is the process available. A lawyer has also agreed to represent the Dyczkowskis for free.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

26 COMMENTS

  1. If an airline is that worried about a $2000 cost, what corners are they cutting so save a few bucks here and there? OK, it’s Air Canada, so we already know that customer service was cut to the bare minimum decades ago, but besides that.

    • If there were 100 passengers making the claim for delays by weather, that would be $200,000; I can see the airlines wanting to discourage a massive group of passengers deciding to blame the airline for weather delays.

  2. This will be the new trend by Airlines that are fuming in both Canada and the United States over new regulations granting displaced passengers more rights and rewards/ refunds, hotel accommodations, etc.

    Everything will be ” a weather related ” cancellation or a ” weather related ground stop ” or a ” weather related ” taxi back when in reality it was a Mx issue,etcetera.

    The airline lawyers have to do their damndest to kill off pax rights.

  3. It seems to me that the question is more one of principle. If one person is paid for a delay caused by the weather, then possibly everyone else will have to be paid next. And who pays for everything in the end – the other passengers.

    The world today is in a strange pattern; there is “Rule of Law”, which should apply to everyone equally, and then there is “Rules based international order”, under the guise of which the stronger ones bully the smaller ones, destroy states and even cause continent-wide chaos. Right or wrong, that is the question.

  4. According to the article, the flight delay was caused by weather, which is beyond the airlines control. The only available remedy is to file suit and get the award overturned. Precedent is powerful, allowing it to stand is a self inflicted injury. Imagine a A380 full of people claiming 10x the cost of their ticket for weather related delays…

    • CTA says the delay was Air Canada’s fault. Air Canada says the delay was “primarily” due to weather. I read that as a disagreement over the cause for the delay – not the article stating that the cause for the delay was weather. Air Canada’s inclusion of the word primarily, highlights another level of complexity. What happens if the weather is not an issue at the scheduled departure time, but there is a maintenance issue. The maintenance issue is corrected and the flight is ready to depart, but in the meantime a weather hold has been put in place?

      • Douglas, well understood – its we said/ they said thing. The question of reasonability aside, if only two out of X passengers are awarded, the airline is correct and legally entitled to attempting to get clarity on CTA’s ruling process. I would not doubt that many airlines hide their flight delays under the weather, however reimbursing passengers (likely) more than the paid amount for delays caused by anything, is bound to force airlines to self insure by significant price hikes. Imagine the passengers whining louder than turbines and crew together… a completely different kind if flying, altogether! 🙂

  5. Here’s hoping the airline wins, if as a result of the ruling the precedent set forces a govenment agency to take responsibility and consequences for its decisions.

  6. There’s something missing from this story. If there was, indeed, a weather delay then why did the CTA award money to the passengers in the first place? If there was a weather delay then I perfectly understand why the Air Canada is suing. It seems this case is less about this specific case and more about who gets to define what qualifies as a weather delay.

    • I think Mark’s assessment is correct. For what it’s worth I have flown Air Canada in really terrible conditions. The flight crew and cabin crew were stellar.

  7. Airlines often use “weather “ as an excuse whenever they can even if it’s not the real reason for the delay. Several years ago my wife and I missed a confecting overseas flight because of “weather”. What we didn’t understand was that a lot of other flights had departed on time while our flight was delayed. We asked the flight attendant what happened and we found out that the captain had decided that they hadn’t had the required downtime because the hotel’s fire alarm had gone off in the middle of the night and he postponed the departure until they had satisfied the downtime requirement. They used the weather excuse so they didn’t have to compensate the passengers. We ended up spending 3 days at the connection city without any compensation.

    • A year ago I was flying (as an airline passenger) out of COS the day of AF Academy graduation. Earlier in the day commencement speaker was the POTUS. The airline app sent notice that the departure time had moved up to the time that was previously the boarding time (RIGHT NOW!). We were all rushed on the plane and as soon as we were seated they pushed back and started the engines (no safety briefing). We all understood what was happening as we could see Air Force One on the opposite corner of the airport. As soon as the engines were running they pilot came on and said there was a ground delay and we sat for close to an hour. Then we were given permission to move to the far SE corner of the field where we waited for AF1 to take off to the south. Once it was clear the pattern we took off to the west. We were late but everyone made their connections. Colleagues on other airlines were told there was a weather delay and weren’t able to board until after AF1 departure. They all missed their connections and some had to stay overnight at the connecting airport.

  8. Wondering if these passengers were the same ones that have made a career out of suing Air Canada because they claimed that the quality of French Language on board was poor?
    Just wondering;

  9. Sometimes its ok to get your hotel bill paid,or whatever if its in the airlines policy.To have a regulator between the service provider and the customer in some cases would deteriorate the situation,relationship.With competition i can fly on a different airline when am unhappy with the service provided

  10. I have no doubt that an airline will use weather or other act of god as a reason for a delay. That is why it is important to have a, supposedly neutral, 3d party to rule on the cause of the delay. It seems that in Canada the CTA is such a party.
    Both airlines and passengers should abide by their decisions without further delay.

    In Europe such a system has been in place for decades and for the most part it works although the airlines make passengers jump through hoops and often file appeals to get reimbursed.

  11. “Everything will be ” a weather related ” cancellation or a ” weather related ground stop ” or a ” weather related ” taxi back when in reality it was a Mx issue, etcetera.”

    That’s been increasing for some time. I was on a flight (well, supposed to be) out of LAX a while back. The plane was there, but had engine problems. After a couple of hours the airline thought they had it fixed. Nope – as we got to watch them do the unusual act of testing it at the gate. Finally, the airline announced that “testing of the engine was not entirely satisfactory” (now there’s a phrase to inspire confidence!) and the flight would be delayed another four hours.

    All total, we got a new plane six hours late – at which time they canceled the flight! The relevance? They said it was canceled due to weather!!! Yes, there was now a storm in the area – but it was clear blue skies six hours earlier when we were supposed to depart! [And, of course, no compensation – not even a voucher for a candy bar.]

  12. Right before Covid hit, my wife and I were connecting on American Airlines through ORD. We forgot about the time change and decided we had enough time for a nice dinner in the terminal. We missed our connection and asked American if we could switch to the next flight out to our destination – which was the next morning. American not only put us on that flight at no additional charge but paid for us to stay at the on-airport hotel at their expense. We have been fans of American Airlines ever since…Our preference is to fly ourselves, but when we have to take the big aluminum tube, our preference is American. Your experience may vary…

  13. The curious thing about this to me is, apparently, Canadian law: As I understand the article, the CTA was responsible for levying the fine of Air Canada, but it’s the aggrieved passenger who has to bear the costs of attorneys when the airline disputes CTA’s decision in court. Is this correct? If so, I would think it would be a powerful dissuader to a passenger from ever complaining to CTA about delayed or cancelled flights. At least in the US, you couldn’t find an attorney willing to go court for you for $2,000, and I wonder if it’s similar up north. Here you would spend much more in attorney fees than the $2K award, and even if you won and attorney fees had to paid by the airline, the waste of time and effort wouldn’t be worth it.

  14. Last May I flew to Denver via CLT. On the inbound leg they delayed the flight 15 (yes FIFTEEN) times between 10:15PM and 3:30AM, until the weather actually arrived, and only then to the morning. They stated that it was crew, but when people tried to request a hotel the response was “we will soon start boarding!, do you want risk flying only tomorrow night?” Of-course at 3:30 there was no American ground crew to talk to. There is no way this was not done to save hotel fees, yet the explanation was “”””weather””””. The fact that by the time the weather arrived we were supposed to be at destination did not matter.

    And yes, they tried the exact same thing on the flight back. 1 hour, 1:30, 30 min. 20 min. 40 min. When I tried to rebook I was told that the next flight would only be in 24 hours. Then I managed to get a hotel… Most others had to stay overnight in the airport. And NO. in both cases it was lousy and unapologetic management, NOT WEATHER. I checked my Foreflight – NO weather that would have prevented me to fly with my SEL plane.

    Airlines are abusive of their passengers. Unfortunately, unlike in Canada, in the US we have close to zero protection from such abuse. I am happy to see that it costs Air Canada money to deal with the case. I do not know the facts but I hope it will be a reminder that screwing your passengers cost. I just hope that the US government will start providing higher penalties and full compensation to passengers in the US. And the only way this will work is by government, as this is one area where capitalism fails – they follow each other to the lowest common denominator.

    • See HR 3935 just passed in May, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, for more details. It’s not everything a passenger would want, but it’s a darn sight better than what we have. No more fees for a family flying together; airlines have to give compensation for food, lodging and transportation to and from lodging; hassle-free refunds due to cancellations or delays over 3 hours; if credits offered, they have to be good for 5 years; and triples violations costs to the airlines from $25,000 to $75,000 per occurrence. That’s just the highlights, check it out online.

  15. My last Air Canada flight pushed back 2 hours and 33 minutes late due to lack of crew. The Air Canada official record is that the flight was 1 hour and 59 minutes late. Potential compensation starts after a 2 hours. This appears to be a common strategy to avoid paying anything.

  16. Lets see the choices…..

    Take a $200,000 delay? or

    Depart with the maintenance problem? Or The Crew Duty Time Problem? Or not enough fuel? Or….

    It looks like Pete Buttigieg has just catapulted air transportation back to the 60’s.

    God help us.

  17. Seems to me that too many responses are MISSING the point, as has been reinforced by readers who actually READ the copy and percieve the ‘why’ of the airlines posture. All some want to do (probably without fully understanding what they have read!!) is bash the ‘big bad airline(s)’. More power to Air Canada, in this case!!

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