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WestJet files motion to quash CTA directive to refund passenger $1,000: report

TORONTO — WestJet has reportedly filed a motion in the Federal Court of Appeal in a bid to quash a directive from the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) to pay a passenger $1,000 in compensation for a flight disruption caused by crew constraints.

As the CBC reports, WestJet’s motion, filed on Aug. 10, argues that the CTA’s ruling was flawed and based on a misinterpretation of the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR).

Compensation claim refusals on the grounds of crew constraints have become a hot-button issue for airlines, passengers and the CTA over the past several months.

Other carriers including Air Canada will no doubt be watching the case closely.

Earlier this month Air Canada hit the headlines for the same reason: denying passenger requests for refunds for flights cancelled due to crew constraints. The issue is whether or not a flight cancelled due to staff shortages, i.e. crew constraints, constitutes a safety-related issue, making the ticket for the cancelled flight ineligible for a refund.

Broader APPR rules are set to come into effect Sept. 8, 2022, “to ensure passengers are compensated for flight delays, cancellations, and other incidents that may be out of an air carrier’s control,” according to Transport Canada.

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told Travelweek that Air Canada remains committed to continue fulfilling its obligations under APPR, noting that the APPR outlines several categories for required duty of care, and compensation, depending on the circumstances. Some cancellations are within the airline’s control, and some aren’t. “There is also a third category, where cancellations are within the airline’s control but for safety reasons, in which case there are obligations on the carriers for such things as meal vouchers and hotels, but not compensation. This properly recognizes that the top priority for any carrier (and customers) is to operate safely and that there should be no penalties for making decisions based on safety,” says Fitzpatrick.

The issue of denied passenger refund claims was also raised at the transport committee’s first hearing into the delays, cancellations and other issues plaguing Canada’s airports throughout air travel’s restart. Airline executives are expected to testify as well.

At the hearing, when asked about the CTA and the processing of claims for compensation from the airlines from frustrated travellers facing delays or cancellations, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said: “I’m confident the CTA will do everything it can… and hold airlines to their end of the bargain. Clearly there have been examples of [airline response] that were unacceptable and should not be tolerated.”

Alghabra also said he didn’t want to pre-judge individual claims now in the hands of the CTA, “but I don’t feel that labour issues can be used” to reject compensation claims.

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