Women who lost last opportunity to see dying relative should sue Air Canada, advocate says

Mitch MacDonald
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Two women who were barred from an Air Canada flight to visit a dying relative may have grounds to sue the airline, says a prominent Canadian air passenger rights advocate.

Gabor Lukacs said he felt personally affected after hearing the story of Joanne Hannah's and her 85-year-old grandmother Ruth Hannah's recent complications with the airline.

"It showed a complete lack of sensitivity to the grief of this family... they're trying to point the finger at the family for what I believe is Air Canada's own fault," said Lukacs, who lives in Halifax. "We're not talking about someone who is missing a wedding or vacation, we're talking about someone who missed the last chance to speak to her brother while he was still alive."

Last Monday, the two women were reportedly denied access to their flight from Pearson International Airport to P.E.I. in order to visit a dying relative because they were two minutes late.

However, Joanne said they were actually at the airport on time, but spent 15 minutes first searching for a wheelchair and then trying to locate an occupied Air Canada kiosk.

Lukacs said while Air Canada does follow a strict cut-off time, the airline would have had the option of providing boarding passes, even if it meant leaving the luggage grounded.

In addition, he said it is ultimately the airline's responsibility if customers arrive at the airport in a reasonable time but are unable to check in due to a shortage in staff.

"We're not talking about someone who is missing a wedding or vacation, we're talking about someone who missed the last chance to speak to her brother while he was still alive." Gabor Lukacs, Canadian air passenger rights advocate.

In her complaint, Joanne described a shortage of staff contributing to the incident.

"If that's the case and there wasn't enough staff, it becomes Air Canada's responsibility," said Lukacs, who also questioned why it took so long to find a wheelchair at the airport.

"Since it was a domestic flight, I would recommend getting a lawyer and suing Air Canada."

That's something that Lukacs is familiar with, after having spent the past eight years advocating for change within airlines.

Lukacs, who has won 25 cases with the Canadian Transportation Agency, also operates the Air Passenger Rights Facebook and Twitter pages.

He has two more cases against the CTA being heard next month in Halifax's federal court of appeal and encouraged others to record similar interactions with airlines.

"The best way to take control of the situation is to take cell phone video and pictures," he said. "You have full rights to record in a public space. (WestJet and United Airlines) tried to get me arrested twice, and each time having those recordings helped.

"People should be taking on Air Canada with every single issue. Don't let them get away with it."



Organizations: Air Canada, Pearson International Airport, Canadian Transportation Agency Air Passenger Rights Facebook United Airlines

Geographic location: Halifax, P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • Laurent Beaulieu
    March 31, 2016 - 17:56

    It's easy to take the American approach and say sue them. But it costs a lot of money to do this and you have to have a solid case. In this story there are many holes. She said he said. It is also easy to pick on Air Canada one of the best airlines in the World and an Award winning airline.

  • Dylan
    March 30, 2016 - 22:00

    From my experience at airports, there are TVs everywhere that show flights and what gates they are at. And just because you booked with Air Canada doesn't mean you only have to ask them. I have asked many security agents and even WestJet staff. Most times they are in the same area when flying out. I personally don't like Air Canada, they screwed over a bunch of people trying to leave pei for work, and my family when we were flying out for a wedding. Like it sucks that you dealt with crappy people, but if you know you will need assistance, showing up 'on time' does not mean their recommend time, it means showing up well before that.

  • John
    March 29, 2016 - 12:41

    I think each person that Air Canada treats like this should sue. They are still acting like a Gov. airline not all people who work for air Canada are ass____. Sue and send a message that they don't own the sky's .

  • passenger
    March 29, 2016 - 11:29

    Maybe their reaction was because they had not already sold all the seats on that flight to stand-by people, - and therefore they had no seats lefts- would be interesting to know. But of course they would not tell anybody that.

  • John
    March 29, 2016 - 10:33

    How can any one pass judgement on Air Canada as it relates to this particular situation? We have one side of the story only. One side. Let's wait for all the facts to surface before harshly condemning any one or any company.

  • Sue, Sue, Sue ...
    March 29, 2016 - 08:20

    The family doesn't have a case. They were LATE for check in, (rules) and disorderly in the airport. In this day and age of security, those are HUGE mistakes! IF the Air Canada staffer said those alleged cold-hearted words, that is inexcusable, but the travelers were ultimately in the WRONG! The rules are printed right on your ticket!

    March 29, 2016 - 07:36

    Give it a rest. They didn't show up in time to board the plane.Regardless of the reason for the flight, rules are rules. Why isn't anyone questioning the Hannahs? If it was so important that they fly, they should have given themselves enough time to get to the airport, not two minutes late, especially with a person that needed help to board the aircraft. As for the person going to a wedding, it is just as important to them as someone flying because of an imminent death.She had plenty of time to go to speak to her brother, why did she wait until the last possible minute? They bear a responsibility here as well.But no one will say this, it's just easier to blame Air Canada.

    March 29, 2016 - 07:25

    This advocate apparently doesn't get the fact that these people were LATE for their flight. Without regulations and check in times everyone would be running down the runways threating to sue unless the planes stopped for them. Check in times are just that, a time to check in and prepare to board not the time to arrive at the airport.