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Advice on Air Canada ordeal?

Jan 27, 2019
Over the Christmas holidays we were flying from Boston to Mumbai via Toronto on Air Canada. What was supposed to take about 19 hours of travel turned into a 75+ hour ordeal. I’ll spare you the gory details but here is the crux: Our initial leg Boston->Toronto was delayed by over two hours, but upon landing in Toronto we received a text that our connecting flight was also delayed and would not leave for another 40 minutes. We managed to deplane, get through customs, and run to the departure gate in time to board. However, when we tried to board, we were told that we had been taken off the flight (on which we had confirmed seats) because Air Canada had determined they would not be able to get our baggage (which had been checked through to Mumbai) onto that flight in time and that we couldn’t fly without our luggage, so we had to rebook. This was clearly NOT a consistently enforced policy, as they eventually put us on a flight without any of our luggage. Later, in correspondence with Customer Relations, Air Canada did not mention this baggage policy, saying instead that passengers need to arrive at the gate 15 minutes before the original scheduled departure time, and since that was not possible based on our first leg’s arrival time, we were taken off the second leg (even though the second leg’s departure was already known to be delayed at that point).

After many hours in line and on hold, the best flight they would give us was more than 2 days later with an additional connection through Heathrow, making our arrival more than 2.5 days later than scheduled. There was in fact a flight with economy seats available the next day from Newark to Mumbai, but they refused to let us book that because the only available Toronto->Newark seats were business class.

To top it off, Air Canada provided us only with one night of hotel – a single room for 4 people (two teens plus two adults) and could not find our checked our bags – so we were stranded in Toronto for over two days with no luggage. Eventually, both additional flights (to Heathrow then Mumbai) ended up delayed as well (requiring another rebooking in Heathrow) and our luggage was lost for days, with one piece reaching us only when we were going to leave India.

We wrote Customer Relations requesting a refund to help cover significant out of pocket costs and the significant disruption to our trip, but were only offered a 15% discount on our next flight. (This is truly worthless to us, since we are unlikely to take any family trips to Canada within the next year, and even less likely to take another longer international flight within the next year.) They maintain the initial delay in Boston was due to weather (there was only light rain in Boston that night, and a WestJet flight with the same itinerary, BOS->YYZ, with departure time 5 minutes earlier than our flight, left on time. Is it still possible that Air Canada was under a ground delay outside of their control? We noticed none of the AC flights that day had left anywhere close to on-time; not sure why). They also maintain we were not “involuntarily denied boarding” but that we had to be taken off the flight since there was no way we would be at the gate 15 minutes before the originally scheduled departure time.

While the whole ordeal has been extremely frustrating, and it feels like we have very little leverage with them. I have not seen much in these forums about dealing with Air Canada specifically, either, so am wondering whether anyone has advice as to whether this is worth pursing and how to best go about it.
Thanks in advance for sharing your advice and wisdom.


Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
Maui Hawaii
Create a brief bulleted point list of the issues without commentary or emotion.

Email to Air Canada, starting at the first customer service person, and escalate weekly if no/negative response. Do not attach anything to your emails.
Also decide what you are looking for. They may be willing to give you miles (as opposed to a discount), which can be used on Star Alliance members. Asking for a refund of fare is not likely to be successful.

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Reactions: Sunshine2446
Sep 19, 2015
What a horrible experience. It is very possible that there was a ground delay — there may be ways to look that up with the flight dates.

Christmas time often has flights booked to capacity and finding 4 extra seats is a challenge.

The airline is not obligated to put someone in a higher class of service. Toronto to EWR is dominated by Air Canada and United which are partners — those are the only two airlines that offer non stops.

I think you need to follow Weihlac’s advice. I do not think that you need a middleman or join a not for profit lobbying group— although the work is important it is more legislative directed and the OP can do this on their own.

Compose a factual letter and have an itemized list with proof of expenses such as hotel, meals, and anything that was bought as a result of the delayed luggage.

Do not ask for pain and suffering — although you did suffer — Airlines do not pay for that.

The cash outlay should be reimbursed.
Jan 27, 2019
Thanks very much to everyone for chiming in - we did follow Weihlac's advice and were eventually able to get some relief in the form of flight vouchers.


Jan 6, 2015
the United States
Things that complicate your case:

Delays Happen
When they do, airlines will place you on the next available flight with seats open in the same class. They are not obligated to transport you in higher class than the one for which you paid.​
Customs and Immigration
These are always unpredictable and often add delays​
The flights you chose did not account for the possibility of long delays. There were no flights from Boston after yours that would have arrived in time for the next leg out of Toronto.​
Connecting through Canada added another layer of Customs processing to your journey.​
Finally, you chose a flight from Toronto in a seat class that had no "backup" for two days. They did the best they could I think.​

It's important to choose flights with delays and cancellations in mind. That adds a layer of protection for you . . .