Tag Archives: air canada

Knowing Your Air Travel Rights


On a trip to Miami a few years ago, my flight departing YVR was delayed due to a mechanical trouble. This resulted in missing my connection to Miami through Chicago. United Airlines did what would be the most economical resolution and booked me on their next flight to Miami much later that evening. I had somewhere to be, and so I reminded them of their obligation to put me on the next available flight, on any airline, and was on my way to Miami shortly after on an American Airlines flight. Had I not known my rights and accepted the airline’s first offer, I would have been stuck hanging out at Chicago O’Hare airport for several hours, missing the party in Miami. Likewise on a trip from Toronto to New York, United Airlines cancelled my flight due to “weather” (I think it was actually because the flight was only half sold) despite all competitors still flying at the same time on the same route. They automatically rebooked me me on a flight 3.5 hours later and with some pushing I was able to get to New York on an American Airlines ticket at my originally scheduled departure time.

Passenger rights vary from country to country, and airline to airline; I will not go into great detail into all of them but rather provide you with some general tips:

  1. If you encounter a delay, cancellation or involuntary bump, first jump on Google to see what your airline’s responsibilities are before you accept an offer from the airline. The most economical or first offer from the airline may not be the one most appealing to you. For example, I had been out for a few pre-flight beers when my flight to Australia was cancelled by Air Canada until the next day. They informed me I should go home and come back to the airport the following day and did not offer any compensation for additional costs as I was “local” (although I live 30 minutes away from the airport). I did not have transportation to/from the airport and was unwilling to pay the $70 taxi fare each way myself, and was able to have Air Canada pay for both taxi rides for me as this was an unnecessary expense for their delay.
  2. Be careful booking your own connections. For example, when I flew Air Canada to London, and then booked a separate ticket to Rome on Alitalia, I was warned to leave enough time for the connection as they would not be responsible if I missed this connection the same way as if I had booked with Air Canada the whole way in which case they would be responsible for re-booking the missed connection to Rome. Airlines often book their own tight connections knowing they will be responsible to re-book passengers if the flight is missed. You cannot take such liberties with booking.
  3. Those low cost carriers such as Sunwing, Air Transat, Allegiant, Ryanair, etc. do not have the same passenger rights as flying full service airlines such as Air Canada or WestJet. I try to avoid these airlines at all cost, especially after a significant flight change on Air Transat to Fort Lauderdale where I was simply told they had the right to change my flight by 12 hours without any other options provided. I remember explaining to the person I was travelling with why we paid more to fly Air Canada as we walked out the airport past everyone we had travelled to Mexico with while they were arguing with Sunwing about their luggage that never appeared.
  4. Delayed or lost baggage compensation varies by airline and is why you should always book on your travel credit card as suggested here. I had Lufthansa try to explain their super complicated compensation process when my bag was delayed on a trip to Wales (they wanted me to return the clothing I had bought by mailing it to them to get 100% reimbursement or I would only get 50%?) and I was grateful I had proper insurance through my CIBC Aerogold Infinite VISA as their process seemed onerous.
  5. The 24 hour grace period for booking errors is one I mention in my blog about booking here but should be mentioned again. Not all airlines or booking sites honour this, but it is great to be aware of in case you make an error while booking (or you book a flight impulsively before actually checking if you can get the days off work…)
  6. Europe has some serious passenger rights with minimum compensation for delayed flights. The airline isn’t going to advertise this or hold your hand through the filing process – the onus is on you to know about this. On a recent flight from Reykjavik to Copenhagen, I was compensated 400 euros for a 3 hour delay. That is more than I paid for my entire flight!
  7. Don’t forget food and drinks! With any cancelled or delayed flight situation, they’ll usually throw in some vouchers for food or drinks while you’re stuck waiting around. Don’t be shy to ask.

By knowing your rights (or at least Googling them at the time a situation occurs, because who really has time to read all that fine print when planning a trip) and following my tips on utilizing a travel credit card, you should never be left stranded, sleeping in an airport, or paying out of pocket for expenses that should be covered by an airline. The Canadian federal government is currently (2018) working on a Passenger Bill of Rights that I imagine will be similar to the one in the US. Although this is a fantastic step to protect passengers flying on those airlines who do not honour the same level of customer service, I do feel Air Canada already follows many of the guidelines that are introduced in this bill and by a little self advocacy, I have been able to ensure my travel experiences have been as smooth as possible during the delays, cancellations, and complications that are inevitable with air travel.

A great website to start your search on rights should you come into a situation while flying is: airefarewatchdog although I suggest that you verify any information you read on any blog with the actual airline website as policies can change faster than blogs get updated.

7 Tips to Travel Like a Boss

If the travel bug is found to be genetic then I can thank my dad for my addiction.  Since he takes 120+ flights a year I asked him to summarize some of his top tips for those who are a bit more amateur with flying. Understanding these common issues can make travel a bit less stressful, and by following my tips on knowing your rights posted here, you can navigate these bumps with a bit less stress.

Screaming at the ticketing agent isn’t going to get your grounded flight in the air any faster during a snowstorm so pack a good book, grab a drink, and learn to travel like a boss – preferably in the business class lounge.

Rob’s Rules of Travel:

1)    Connecting flights – No matter the weather conditions and other factors causing delays, when your incoming flight is late your connecting flight is always on time.

2)    Nexus/TSA Pre – Despite all the signs and information available some people still insist on taking off their shoes, coats and remove liquids, electronics that they don’t have to.  Clearly should be a test when you sign up and only allow those who can pass a minimum intelligence level to qualify.  Anyone who still can’t figure out how to go through security should be suspended from the program.

3)    The later the flight the further out your gate is.  Want to arrive at gate 99 in YYZ, try arriving at 1:00 am for a healthy 30 minute walk. Better yet, when the weather is horrible and the first 200 metres is outside.

4)    There is a definite correlation between how much of a hurry you are in, and how delayed your flight is.  Midday flight no appointments, right on time.  Birthday dinner, running close, guaranteed 4 hour delay.  When the pilot announces that the flight looks like it will arrive early, almost guaranteed to have a ground hold, gate occupied or ground crew shortage to prove them wrong.

5)    After you spend time on seat selection and prebook a bulkhead, aisle, or exit row seat how is that some people have the gall to ask if you would mind changing with him so he/she can sit beside their spouse?  Really not sure you always need that much closeness anyway but I sure don’t have a problem saying “hell no”.

6)    Flight delays come in 20 minute increments.  Even when you verify on an independent app like Flightviewer that the incoming flight hasn’t even left yet and you will be at least 4 hours delayed, the airline insists on letting you know 20 minutes at a time.  Some kind of training program I guess to keep customers on their toes.

7)    Airline food actually gets a bit of a bad rap.  Not the free hot meals they still insist on forking out on overseas flights.  No those are crap and should be avoided at all costs.  I’m talking about the buy on board stuff.  Pretty good sandwiches, salads and snacks which improved dramatically once you started having to pay.  In fact, I have asked for a selection from that menu when flying business class as the selection was better than the pre-plated stuff up front.  On the other hand, people bringing their own food on board should be banned.  Whole plane ends up smelling like a food court and what is it about being on a plane that all of a sudden you can’t go a couple of hours without food?

Booking flights – not all booking sites are created equal

Once you decide you want to travel, it is time to start finding the best deal to get there.

If you are Canadian, two essential sites you need to follow on Facebook or through their email lists are www.yvrdeals.com (or www.yyzdeals.com if in the Toronto area) and www.nextdeparture.ca

These sites are for the impulsive ready to go people out there. You are flexible with your schedule and your destination, and ready to jump on a deal. Unlike other travel companies that continually advertise “sale” fares, these sites only advertise significant discounted fares.

If you’re unable to find a deal on these sites and have an idea of where or when you’d like to travel, you can start a general search with travel search engines.

I like to start with a broad using Google flights or Kayak and here is why:

Google flights:

– Ability to search multiple nearby airports at once (for example Los Angeles has about 5 nearby airports and prices/flight times can vary considerably)

– Flexible date range – if you are flexible and looking for the best deal to a destination google flights has a calendar view option allowing you to check several months in advance

–  Flexible location search. Maybe you know your dates but are flexible on where you want to go? You can enter broad search terms like “Europe” or “South America”

– Fantastic multi city destination search options

Kayak

I use kayak if I am pretty sure where I want to go and when, but have a bit of flexibility. Reasons to use kayak are:

– Allows you to search +/- 3 days on either side of your date

– Also allows multiple destinations to be entered

– You can enter a price drop alert and they will email you if your destination drops below the price you set

There are other great search engines such as sky scanner and momondo – it really comes down to personal preference.

Once you’ve found flights you want to book on the search engine, you can click on the link to get redirected to their preferred booking site. There have been cases where the link from Google Flights has provided me with a cheaper price with United Airlines than if I search any other search engine or the United Airlines site itself so it is always worth the click through!

Alternately, you can take the information you found and plug it into a separate booking site, or the airlines direct booking site.

Personally, I prefer to book directly with the airline, or through Expedia.

Expedia has a cool perk that allows you to change your flight by end of business day with no penalty (I’ve used this on more than one occasion when I’ve made mistakes) and will also honour the airline change policies – such as free changes or cancellation within 24 hours – please double check with them in case this has changed but I used it as recently as December 2017.

Other pros to Expedia are the opportunity to collect money back through Ebates and their Expedia+ points. Expedia usually has the exact same prices as booking direct the airline so these little perks make it worth using their site.

I will however book directly with airlines in some occasions. Typically when a fare isn’t showing up on Expedia (it happens. I don’t know why, but it does) or I’m looking for a specific connection, or in some cases, airlines offer promo codes to book directly with them. These codes typically can’t be used with third party sites like Expedia. The best way to access these promo codes is to keep an eye out on their social media sites (for example, I follow on Air Canada on Facebook to be alerted on the rare times they post a 15% discount code for booking direct)

In summary, after checking Google flights or Kayak to find your flight dates/times/airline, head to Expedia (via Ebates) or the airlines’ website (with promo codes in hand) to book directly.

I cannot recommend any other booking sites. There are many I haven’t used before, and a couple I have had bad experiences with.

I will NOT book through Travelocity or Flight Network again and although I hope their business practices have improved since my negative experiences, I am unable to recommend them.

In 2013 I booked a trip on Travelocity and within the 24 hour guarantee period, the price dropped. It took me several hours of phone calls and emails to cancel my original flight. I was sent a $50 credit to use on a future booking for my trouble but obviously never used the credit as it would have required me to book with them again. Amongst the worst customer service I have experienced in my travel career.

When I booked a flight on Flight Network in 2015 (their price drop guarantee attracted me and a friend cashed in on this successfully so I thought I’d give it a try) I quickly realized (within the hour) that I wanted to change my flight. I had booked an Air Canada flight and since Air Canada has a no fee change policy within 24 hours of booking, I assumed I was fine. Unfortunately Flight Network adds their own $75 surcharge to this making this change not free.