We asked, they answered: Are travel agents obligated to warn clients about the current airport delays?

We asked, they answered: Are travel agents obligated to warn clients about the current airport delays?

TORONTO — The long lineups at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Canada’s other major gateways are so much in the news these days, it would be tough for any traveller to claim ignorance of the delays and the potential impact on their trip.

Such widespread coverage means that travel agents – who do everything they can to keep clients up to date on travel conditions – generally wouldn’t be obligated to make sure their client knows to arrive at the airport even earlier than usual these days, or risk missing their flight.

But there is one possible exception.

We reached out to Doug Crozier, principal, Heifetz, Crozier, Law, for his take on the legalities of warning clients about the potential delays, as travel ramps up with a vengeance at airports still dealing with understaffing problems and legacy COVID-19 requirements.

The situation has been bad for weeks, going on months, and while the federal government issued a statement on May 27 outlining the steps it’s taking to ease the bottlenecks, many fear it won’t be enough to get passengers moving through Canada’s airports efficiently in time for the busy summer travel season.

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Travelweek: With all the delays at Pearson and other airports lately, would a travel agent be obligated to make sure their client knows to arrive at the airport even earlier than usual, or risk missing their flight?

Crozier: “With one proviso, it’s not a legal necessity, but it’d be wise to do so.

“If a travel agent professes expertise in the field of travel, then she’d be obliged to share her expertise with her clients. But knowledge of the current delays at airports is not something that is ‘inside knowledge’, known only to travel agents with such expertise.

“News of these delays is in the public domain. It’d be difficult for a passenger honestly to claim to be unaware of the problem, just like it’d be tough for him to claim to be unaware of the existence of COVID, or that an equatorial destination will be hotter than his home in Canada.

“That said, it’s cheap insurance to add a brief caution about airport delays, when advising a client about a pending trip, so why not do so?

“The proviso arises if the client is not local, or otherwise unable to access the news. Word of delays at Pearson may be in the news in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, but not in Argentina or Zimbabwe or anywhere in between.

“A passenger who is not familiar with the current situation through the news media, or who is not functional in English or French, might be able to claim successfully that a travel agent breached her obligation by not advising of the risk of delay as, for him, it’s not a bit of knowledge in the public domain.”