Air Canada refuses to refund ticket despite denied boarding

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Nov 18, 2019
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#1
I was illegally denied boarding by Air Canada over the summer (July 20, 2019) due to an IT issue. During the online check-in process, Air Canada stated on their app/website to arrive to the airport & drop my bags prior to the 45 minutes cutoff. I arrived to Calgary’s airport 53 mins before my flight, which my family and I have done numerous times in the past. The airport is usually pretty empty and security is a breeze. Printing a baggage tag using the kiosks should take at most 1 minute, especially since I was already checked-in at that point.

When I tried self-tagging my bags using one of the Air Canada kiosks roughly 51 mins before my flight, the kiosk didn’t give me the option to print my boarding pass nor my baggage’s tags. I then proceeded to using 2 of the other kiosks, only to run into the same issue. It is pretty clear that there was a glitch in their baggage tagging IT system. I then asked help from the Air Canada agent nearby and she just referred me to the desk agents since that person claimed they "couldn't do much".

Eventually, I went and lined up to get help from an agent since the kiosks were not working and waited another 2-3 mins. By the time I got to the agent, this person told me I was too "late" and was forced to missed my flight. She wouldn’t let me check in my baggage’s and was telling me the only option I had was to go to ticketing and ask them for help. I asked if anything could be done since I should not be liable for Air Canada's IT malfunction and they said she couldn’t do anything about it, despite me "begging" her nicely to help. I tried to have her find me a manager so I could speak with and was told that there was no one nearby... The agent told me that she couldn’t do anything because I had purchased basic economy tickets....

After going to the ticketing counter (like I was suggested), I had to wait over 40 mins for someone to help me out. I even tried asking twice from help from the special assistance customer service representatives and they kept insisting that there’s nothing I could do aside from waiting. When the agent showed up, I was given no choice but to buy another flight and pay again for my two pieces of baggage that I had already paid for.

At my gate, I brought up the issue and was told that they understood my plight but that I could only request a refund through customer service. I had my brother contact Air Canada through social media and they said they opened a case and that they would reach out to him by phone. Air Canada never did, so we filled out a feedback form later. We heard back recently (despite it being months after the incident) and Air Canada apologized for their bad customer service. They didn't even bother acknowledging their fault in this whole situation and they did not refund anything. They offered an e-certificate as a goodwill gesture, which is appreciated. The certificate was not even close to cover the cost of the new flight and the two baggage fees I had to repay.

After further arguing by e-mail, they only offered to refund the baggage fees and still refused to reimburse the cost of the new flight. They said the matter is closed. I tried reaching out to the primary contacts listed on the elliot.org website; however, I don't think Air Canada cares enough to solve this matter.

I would not be arguing my case if I was at fault. Air Canada needs to honor its policies. I understand that Air Canada recommends showing up to the airport 60 mins before a flight, but recommendations are not binding. I am deeply disappointed in Air Canada’s customer service; it's extremely slow and very reluctant to help their customers out. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 
Jul 13, 2016
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#2
So to be the bearer of bad news but you were not illegally denied boarding. You arrived with 7 minutes to print your bag tags and check your bags. The airline computers shut down the flight at 45 minutes prior so the passenger manifest can be cleared by the government. No one, not even a supervisor or manager, can override this lock-down. Had you enough time, when your bag tags and boarding pass did not print, you could have gone to the full service desk for help. We have no idea why your boarding pass did not print. It could have been an IT glitch. It could have been any number of issues. The bottom line is that you did not allow enough time to check your bags and get your boarding pass.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#3
A simple search of Air Canada's web site states that you should arrive 90 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights, longer for international flights. https://www.aircanada.com/ca/en/aco/home/plan/check-in-information/check-in-and-boarding-times.html Air Canada does state that check in stops at 45 minutes before departure. Showing up at 53 minutes prior to departure is simply cutting it too close, whether the IT issue is the fault of Air Canada or some glitch with your information. Even if you show up at 53 minutes prior to departure, and get your bags checked in at 52 minutes, you may find security lines are so long that it is impossible to get to your gate 15 minutes before departure. Or, you may find that your flight is leaving from a different terminal or a far more distant gate.

So if you wish Air Canada to honor its policies, you need to show up, for domestic flights, at least 90 minutes in advance. By your account, you did not do so.

The fact that Air Canada has refunded some baggage fees and offered an e-certificate good for future travel is a plus.

(Yes, last time I was in Calgary airport for an international flight there was zero wait for anything. Nevertheless, there was a glitch with my wife's Global Entry card which needed to be resolved, and was.)
 
May 30, 2019
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#4
It appears to me that OP has several lessons here:
  1. Arrived with inadequate time prior to flight -- as described in Post #2
  2. Claimed this was illegal, when in fact it was not -- as described in Post #2
  3. Having someone else reach out to AC customer service. It was the OP doing the traveling, so he/she should have self-advocated even if trying to navigate on-site airline bureaucracy. While waiting in that 'Customer Service' line, concurrently try to call or reach the airline in the hopes that someone can interact and help problem-solve.
  4. Arguing via email instead of pleading for goodwill.
  5. Believing that AC is not honoring its policies, when in fact the airline honored its policies up to the point where it offered a goodwill gesture.
I realize this is harsh. All I can say to mitigate is that I've been in the situation of missing the systemic check-in cutoff by 1-2 minutes -- it hurts. The risk of a kiosk glitch even if an AC IT issue, is why AC recommends checking in 90 (not 60 minutes) for a flight within Canada.

Some airlines sometimes will offer the passenger a stand-by flight to the same destination. If the e-certificate did not cover the refund of luggage fees (and perhaps other ancillary fees such as seat selection) for the first flight, there is a legitimate case for more funds. Otherwise, my recommendation would be to graciously ask for a greater value as a goodwill gesture. Don't argue.
 
May 1, 2018
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#5
My advice for you moving forwards is to improve your attitude and try again. You need to tone down the aggressive rhetoric (illegally denied boarding, needs to honor its policies, arguing by e-mail, etc.) because it is blatantly incorrect and off-putting to the reader. Frankly, you were in the wrong here. You will get further by admitting you made a mistake and requesting a one time exception to their policies than accusing them of doing something "illegal".

We have seen a number of success stories on this forum and they all have one thing in common - the OPs were calm, reasonable, and level headed in their communication. Arguments, accusations, and bombastic claims don't make airline execs want to help you.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
If you have reached out to the contacts and had no resolution then there is not much one can suggest here.

The fact is that you were not checked in at 45 minutes prior. Since the wait for an agent was only 2-3 minutes it does not sound like a massive IT failure where hundreds could not check in at the kiosk. How many people could not check in and missed their flights.

The OP bought basic economy which allows no change to r credit and then arrived 8 minutes before check in closes. Some may like to live on the edge but I would be uncomfortable with that.

And as a technicality the OP was not denied boarding — the OP was not present at the gate with a boarding pass. The OP was denied check in as the 45 minutes passed.

This may have to be chalked up to a learning experience. Air Canada has made some good Will gestures and that may be all that is possible.
 
Apr 4, 2017
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#7
Airline employee here (not Air Canada).

As other posters have mentioned, you were not denied boarding. You failed to check-in on time and thus were offloaded from the flight. Many airlines have a "flat tire rule" and will rebook a passenger who misses check-in on the next available flight provided notification prior to departure. However, this never applies to Basic Economy tickets which are essentially use it or lose it. At my airline, agents have no discretion whatsoever when dealing with Basic Economy tickets -- they are entirely governed by the rules of the system and whatever the computer does/does not allow.

Also, a word of advice for the future: a little humility can go a long way. Owning up to your error, expressing regret, and asking for a reasonable remedy as a gesture of goodwill would likely have had a more positive impact. Air Canada almost certainly does not care about resolving this matter as they've been consistent with their own policy.
 
May 7, 2019
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#8
I am firmly in the camp of people who advise:
Make a habit of arriving 2 hours or so in advance of your flight. Take your time. Enjoy the lounge, or grab a coffee or a drink. Check your emails. Get some work done.

Why subject yourself to the unwanted stress of having to check yourself or your luggage in with only moments to spare?
 
Aug 6, 2018
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#9
I arrive at airports about 40 minutes before take off, but I check-in on line and never have luggage to check. The very few times I have traveled with luggage to check I arrive at least 90 minutes prior to cut off because for years I have read/heard these type of stories. This is clearly the OP's fault and and AC was generous, be happy with that.
 

mmb

Verified Member
Jan 20, 2015
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#10
OP got away with the late arrival to airport ‘many times’ and then didn’t get away with it. oops.

“ I arrived to Calgary’s airport 53 mins before my flight, which my family and I have done numerous times in the past.”
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#11
OP got away with the late arrival to airport ‘many times’ and then didn’t get away with it. oops.

“ I arrived to Calgary’s airport 53 mins before my flight, which my family and I have done numerous times in the past.”
Yeah, its like saying to the police officer that pulls you over for speeding......"but I always speed on this highway and never get pulled over." Getting away with it doesn't make it the correct behavior.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#12
I arrive at airports about 40 minutes before take off, but I check-in on line and never have luggage to check. The very few times I have traveled with luggage to check I arrive at least 90 minutes prior to cut off because for years I have read/heard these type of stories. This is clearly the OP's fault and and AC was generous, be happy with that.
And you'll continue to arrive 40 minutes before takeoff until you miss a flight and spend $1700 on a new tix and end up sitting in a middle seat in row 75, very convenient to the lav. Then you may or may not change your procedure!
 
May 26, 2019
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That may be true, but I'm also never stressed about missing a flight and all of the issues that go along with that. Plus it gives me extra time to read. I fly every week.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Aug 29, 2018
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#16
The other thing to note is that it can vary from airport to apirport. Some spoke airports are quite small -- you can get to them near the cut off and there is no line, no wait. (ABE was like that when I flew there a while back, it may no lomger be that way.) But flying through a major hub, one can reasonably expect crowds and delays. If the original poster is accustomed to a small/fast airport, flying out of a hub may be a totally different experience.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#18
For me, it's a matter of wasting time and/or money. I never worried about missing flights in the past (even tho I don't remember missing more than a couple) . Something could always be worked out. Today, something can be worked out alright ... and it involves a new tix at a walk-up fare. Thousands of dollars down the drain ... not for me. With today's toys, you can get as much done at an airport as you could in your office ... or you can have a hour or two reading with no interruptions. It's an easy choice. I do miss the high of jogging through the airport wondering if they'd hold the door for 3 more minutes ... but I can live with that!
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#19
In the old days, there was no walk-up fare and no dynamic pricing. Prices were announced in advance and were in filed tariffs. Thus, if I missed a flight (I only recall missing one), my ticket, bought the day before, was easily converted into a ticket at the same price for the next flight. Seats were available. For some flights, like the Eastern Airlines shuttle, one did not even have a reservation. You just showed up, and the price was always the same. It seems to me that was true for PSA in California and Southwest when it was only in Texas.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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#20
A lot of things were different “in the old days”. You had to go to a travel agency to buy a ticket. They didn’t charge for changes. They had bereavement fares. Flying was elegant and not in cramped seats. Flying was a luxury back then. Those days are gone and flying is a commodity now and if you want to ensure you don’t have to repurchase a ticket because you made a mistake or arrived too late- you have to be proactive now.
 
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