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

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 29, 2016

©THE CANADIAN PRESS/FILE PHOTO

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.

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."