Denied boarding in Budapest by Air Canada

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May 7, 2018
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#1
Here is the short story about my travel with my wife from April 7 to April 22, 2018.

We are both experienced travelers and have each crossed the Atlantic more than 50 times since we were transferred to Westlake, OH 40 years ago. We are still Danish citizens and are considered “Resident Aliens” our non-expiring green cards say. We are also both in our early 80’s.

We have twice traveled to Copenhagen on the Cleveland-Toronto-Copenhagen and return routes since we obtained the required Canadian eTA numbers tied to our Danish passport numbers, most recently in December 2017. These visas were confirmed by email to each of us in 2016 from the Canadian Immigration Authorities. The visas last 5 years or until a new number is issued or a new passport is obtained. In our cases, neither of these situations have occurred yet.

In 2017 we ordered from Viking Cruises a “Danube Waltz” river cruise from Passau, Germany to Budapest, Hungary with included flight reservations arranged by Viking’s travel office for Cleveland-Chicago-Frankfurt, and Budapest-Toronto-Cleveland.

The outbound flights and the river cruise were great and we were very happy until we checked in for our return flights 3 ½ hours early on April 22, 2018 at the airport counter in Budapest.

We were scheduled to fly from Budapest to Toronto and on to Cleveland (Air Canada Rouge confirmed tickets). However, at the check-in counter my reservation was rejected as I was denied access to Canada supposedly because of disagreement between my eTA number and my passport number. On the other hand, my wife’s permit was OK. This mismatch was confirmed just two hours before departure time by a separate OTP Travel/help office agent at the airport.

We then decided that my wife should return as planned while I had to order a new one-way ticket avoiding Canada for my return. I ended up flying Budapest-Frankfurt-Chicago-Cleveland with Lufthansa on the same day but 2 ½ hours later. I bought the new ticket through the OTP Travel office with my American VISA card at a charge of $1,873.05 plus $56.19 transaction fee charged by VISA.

In the seat originally reserved and confirmed to me, my wife found another passenger who had been moved there from his previously confirmed seat because someone else already sat there.

I was glad to be able to return to Cleveland that very day because I otherwise would have been out of my daily medications, but I do wonder if this travel problem was handled fairly or reasonably.

Obviously, I contacted Viking Cruises. On their request, I forwarded them documentation for my eTA permit and the incurred extra cost, but they subsequently just referred me to the Canadian authorities. A call to the Canadian “Customer Service” resulted in a “this is the wrong number but if you give me your email address I’ll send you the right telephone number” promise. This email did not arrive, so I subsequently filled out a contact form on their website and included questions about my current visa status and whom I should contact for possible reimbursement. This inquiry remains unanswered.

A call to Air Canada resulted in their statement that they had nothing to do with eTA numbers.

As I see it, Air Canada was paid twice for my seat, bumped me, and I paid extra to get out of the pinch. Now what?
 
Likes: agnostic
May 7, 2018
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#3
I was never shown any evidence of the mismatch and my confirming email from Canadian Immigration has been used before several times without any problem.
 
Likes: agnostic
Sep 19, 2015
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#4
If there was a mismatch there is nothing the airline could do. What sort of mismatch? I take it there was no change to the passport.

You were not bumped if there was a problem with the ETA. Once check in was refused the airline is allowed to give away the seat.

The ETA is the root of the problem.
 
May 7, 2018
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#5
All understood and listed in the thread. No new passport involved and the credentials have been used at least 4 times before. As I see the problem; nobody wanted me to see the mismatch for myself on their computer screens. I showed the check-in people my credentials to verify my permission, gave them my passport number and the eTA number and THEY stated that there was a mismatch contrary to the permit. As can be seen, the Canadian authorities have not been helpful so far.
 
Likes: agnostic

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#6
What a perplexing (and expensive!) situation. I would think that AirCanada is responsible for denied boarding, so they owe you an explanation of why. Since you've flown with the same creds several times before, there is indeed a mismatch somewhere and you deserve to know what the problem is. How can you move forward in life not knowing? If Viking made an error booking your air you need to know. You should review all documentation that you received from Viking to see if there's an explanation, a phone call to their air department might help.

If your research with Viking turns up nothing. I think an appeal to AC executives on our Company Contacts would be a good way to get to the bottom of this; I don't think customer service would be much help.
 
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May 7, 2018
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#7
Thanks for the suggestions, which I generally agree with.

My first concern has been and still is to know if my eTA number (confirmed in 2016 in an official email) is still valid. This question can only be answered for sure by Canadian Immigrations. How do I get them to respond?

And then, how could Air Canada agents in Budapest know on their computer that my visa was no longer valid when not even I knew? AC may be able to answer that question, but I would like to know that my visa is/was indeed valid. The agents statements is the only indication I have that the visa is no longer valid. Of course I would like to know why.

Viking claims that they do not collect this kind of information and that it is entirely the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that visas etc. are valid. They did of course pay for the tickets on my behalf in the first place.
 
Likes: agnostic
Sep 19, 2015
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#8
Per this is a distressing incident. I would normally blame the airline but in this case there have been so many reports of the computer system for the Canadian ETA being problematic.

Here is a news report from 2017 when Canadian permanent residents had problems

https://globalnews.ca/news/3168982/...s-creating-snags-for-people-coming-to-canada/

The article mentions that the computer system said ineligible to board even though they were eligible -- people were stranded. So I do not have faith in the Canadian computer program, and I wonder if some sort of update messed up your file.

Have you tried the eta checker that is on the website:

To confirm that you have a valid eTA, use the eTA Check Status tool. You need to provide the following information:

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/helpcentre/questions-answers-by-topic.asp?st=16.7

There could have been a problem and some incorrect information input caused the ETA to be revoked. The computer system the airlines use to verify eligibility is from Canadian immigration.

It is very disturbing to hear that no answer has been given from your web filing. I am trying to think of other suggestions.
 
May 7, 2018
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#9
Thank you very much. This information is very helpful and follows my own approach to the denial exactly.

I will now try out your suggestions and will ask for a new eTA number if needed. Then we will get back to the money issue.
 
Likes: agnostic

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#10
Thank you very much. This information is very helpful and follows my own approach to the denial exactly.

I will now try out your suggestions and will ask for a new eTA number if needed. Then we will get back to the money issue.
Good luck, and please let us know the outcome.
 
May 7, 2018
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#11
Thank you; and I will certainly report the outcome.

So far, I have used the Canadian website "eTA Check Status" to verify that my previously confirmed approval indeed no longer exists. As requested, I reported the problem and its consequences under the "Technical Issues" category and should expect an answer within 10 business days according to their confirming email, so I am still waiting.

I see no reason why my permit was revoked and I will wait to submit a new application until I hear from them or 3 weeks whichever comes first.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#12
Per I suspect your permit was revoked due to error; either a computer system upgrade or input error.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigratio...ic-travel-authorization-applications.html#s05

One should get notified by email if the eta is revoked according to the website.

What I am hoping is that if you can prove that this was a technical problem with Canadian Immigration then you can get a credit or refund for one of the tickets. At this point it does not seem that Air Canada made the mistake.

Please keep us updated.
 
May 7, 2018
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#13
Canadian authorities quickly replied that my eTA/passport numbers were OK and that I was approved for entry into Canada. Testing the numbers again on their Check tool still returned "no match", so a new inquiry has been made. It is a bit puzzling that they do not have the "check tool" available in house. This is the fourth time the check has been performed (twice by me on different days and twice by Hungarian check-in and help personel in Budapest), so the saga continues. The email politely suggested that the wrong numbers were entered but I think we can exclude that since 3 separate people did the entries and obtained no positive result.
 
Likes: agnostic
Sep 19, 2015
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#14
Well Per this gets more and more odd. I wonder if the external interface (ie people like you and the airlines) have a different interface than people that use it internally.

It would be hard for three different people to input the numbers incorrectly.

Do they scan the passport or input the numbers manually?
 
May 7, 2018
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#15
In Cleveland and Copenhagen they use passport scanners, in Budapest I do not know, but for sure our help-person tried to enter passport and/or approval number manually.

But the system is more complicated than that. In my case the Viking Cruises travel office made the Air Canada reservation probably more than half a year ago. At the latest at boarding time the flyer must enter the necessary Canadian entry info, but it also is requested if/when a confirmation is just checked. That happened for my wife and me, and there was no indication that the eTA number for me was no longer active.

You cannot check-in online and print boarding passes for international travel because the check-in agent must see all necessary physical legitimation (passport and green card in our case) and check the eTA number at the counter. Checking in on the internet when you are in a foreign country is often very inconvenient or impossible.

Trying to guess what went wrong with my Canadian approval is next to impossible because computer systems can be designed in a few good ways and in thousands of wrong ways. So, I will just wait for those in the know to respond to my inquiry.
 
Likes: agnostic
May 7, 2018
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#16
From an agent of the Canadian authorities I received a request for further information in the form of screen shots of the several pages of my inquiry and the "no match found" response I received from their system, plus a scanned picture of the name page of my Danish passport. This morning, 3 days after my submission, I received a response from the agent verifying my information, indicating that my inquiry belonged in their department, and now has been forwarded for further review to someone. The following promise or statement was included: "They will contact you if further information is required or if a decision is made on your application." To me, it sounds pretty vague and time-unlimited. So, the waiting game is on.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#17
As a Canadian, I say, trust the Canadians to sort it out. :) Canada is still small enough that, when you call a federal government department, you can speak to a real live Canadian pretty quickly
 
Likes: jsn55
May 7, 2018
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#18
Optimism and support warm the heart, but:

For the third time I have received assurances by email from the Immigrations-people that I am approved to fly to Canada. My test, as soon as I received their email, was to use their own online Check-tool to verify my status. I understand that it is the same or similar tool used around the world by check-in agents. The result was still the same: my combination af eTA number and Danish passport number is NOT RECOGNIZED by their system. In addition, their email referenced my Danish passport as having been issued in the USA. In exasperation I wrote them as follows on May 22nd:

I have received an email from you that states that my eTA status is approved. However, it also indicates that my passport was issued in the USA. This is WRONG. I am a citizen of DENMARK and hold a Danish passport with the number indicated. I am not a dual citizen, so I do not hold and have never held a USA passport. On my passport and with the current eTA number you refer to, I have traveled to and from Denmark more than once without any problem until I was denied boarding in Budapest, Hungary on April 22, 2018. It cost me USD 1,929 to fly home to Ohio avoiding Toronto, maybe due to this misunderstanding. I need someone to help me out, please!

I am now again waiting for the "Canadians" to figure it out. I am not holding my breath, though.
 
Apr 23, 2018
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#20
This may be off the mark, but they said the passport was issued IN the USA, not BY the USA. (I don't think the Canadians think you are a US citizen.) Did you process your Danish passport renewal through the Danish embassy or consulate in the USA? I don't know if this might have produced a difference in the record, but maybe it's worth following up.