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Air Canada Denied Boarding Compensation: Are You Eligible?

Air Canada Denied Boarding Compensation: Are You Eligible?
Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
Last Updated: May 16, 2024

Air Canada is one of the most frequently used airlines in Northern America, with 46 million passengers in 2023 alone. But what happens if they overbook a flight and you end up being bumped from your seat?

Firstly, what’s the likelihood of this occurring in the first place? While Canadian-based airlines don’t record overbooking data, whistleblowers revealed in 2019 that overbooking was a key strategy in Air Canada’s operations.

According to the two former Air Canada employees, not only was overbooking a common practice, but staff members were also instructed to “dupe” passengers on known overbooked flights. In short, they were only allowed to let customers know at the last minute that they would be denied boarding.

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“It's never fun to have to lie to people," the former sales agent revealed. "I had to tell people over and over again that they were [going to] get on the plane, when I knew that they might not."

 

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Unfortunately, overbooking isn’t exclusive to Air Canada. Airlines in both Northern America and Europe are prone to overbooking flights, with big players like British Airways and Delta admitting to overbooking to cover the cost of absent passengers.

So, what are your rights if you’re denied boarding on an Air Canada flight, and will you have a right to any denied boarding compensation? Let’s take a look.

air canada branded plane on the sunset view

Why Do Airlines Overbook Flights?

So, what is overbooking, and why do airlines do it? Generally speaking, overbooking occurs when airlines sell more tickets than there are available seats on a flight. For instance, an airline might sell 300 plane tickets for a flight that can only accommodate 250 passengers.

In rare cases, airlines may need to downgrade the size of their plane - usually due to weather or safety conditions - resulting in an excess of passengers.

However in most cases, airlines do this to compensate for those who don’t turn up for their flights. Data shows that around 5% of passengers either don’t show up or cancel flights at the last minute, so overbooking allows airlines to compensate for these potential losses and ensure the maximum number of passengers on any departing flight.

However, if all passengers do turn up for their flight, this can mean that any number of customers end up being denied boarding. So, what can you do if this happens to you on an Air Canada flight? Luckily, the airline offers denied boarding compensation, but this is subject to a number of conditions.

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Denied Boarding Air Canada: Regulations and Passenger Rights

Voluntary Denied Boarding

If your Air Canada flight is overbooked, the company’s Contract of Carriage stipulates that staff members will first ask for volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for financial compensation. While there’s no fixed sum offered by the airline for volunteers, Reddit users have reported to have been offered anything from $1,000 to $2,400 (CAD) to give up their seats.

Who Won’t Be Asked To Volunteer?

Generally speaking, Air Canada gives priority boarding to the following passengers and won’t ask them to give up their seat:

  • Minors who are unaccompanied
  • Passengers with disabilities, as well as their carer or service animal
  • Those travelling with family members
  • Passengers who were previously bumped from their flight on the same ticket
  • Business or First Class ticket holders

If you’ve already selected your seat number on the bumped flight, you are also less likely to be asked to volunteer your ticket.

Involuntary Denied Boarding

If not enough passengers volunteer to give up their seats, Air Canada will end up having to deny boarding to certain passengers in order for the flight to depart. In this instance, the airline will be obliged to provide those refused boarding with the following:

  • Food and drink proportionate to the length of the wait
  • Free access to a form of communication
  • Accommodation within a reasonable distance from the airport for overnight delays or those who travelled in from out of town. (This is subject to availability.)

Alternative Transport

Air Canada will also be obliged to arrange alternative transportation for those denied boarding - the airline will usually book you on the earliest possible flight to your planned destination, free of charge.

Refunds

For those who’ve been denied boarding and no longer need to travel (for example, if you were travelling to an event which you now won’t be able to make on time) Air Canada will refund the unused portion of your ticket. For those denied boarding on a connecting flight, Air Canada will refund your ticket and also pay for your return flight home.

man looking at led flight schedule in airport

Involuntary Denied Boarding Air Canada: Compensation

Aside from organising alternative means of transport, Air Canada also offers overbooked flight compensation for those who have been subjected to involuntary denied boarding:

Time Delayed

Compensation Offered

Less than 6 hours

900 CAD

6-9 hours

1,800 CAD

More than 9 hours

2,400 CAD

When You’re Not Entitled to Compensation

It’s important to note that overbooked flight compensation is only available when the cause of overbooking is deemed to be “within Air Canada’s control.” This means that any flight changes due to weather conditions or safety concerns outside the airline’s control (such as a hurricane) can’t be compensated for.

Air Canada also stipulates that you aren’t entitled to financial compensation if:

  • You were given a seat on the same flight as the one on your ticket at no extra charge.
  • You didn’t comply with the airline’s travel and check-in requirements.
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Financial Compensation Elsewhere

While Air Canada is a Canada-based airline, don’t forget that passengers in the UK and EU are also entitled to financial compensation if they’re involuntarily denied boarding on a flight. While in Canada, compensation is determined by the length of time you’re delayed until your next flight. In the EU, compensation is calculated by the distance of your flight:

Distance of Flight

Eligible Compensation

1500 km or less

€250

Over 1500 km (within the EU) and all other flights between 1 500 and 3 500 km

€400

Over 3500 km

€600

If you’re not sure how much you’re eligible for, feel free to use our compensation calculator to see how much financial compensation you could be entitled to.

And if you need expert guidance throughout the claims process, you can enlist the help of us at AirAdvisor.

air canada plane on boarding

Denied Boarding Air Canada: What To Do

So, what should you do if you end up going through involuntary denied boarding on an Air Canada flight? Here’s what we recommend:

Get Assistance

As mentioned above, Air Canada offers complimentary food and drink and accommodation if you’ve been bumped from your flight due to overbooking, so make sure to take advantage of these.

Get Paid

If you’re in Canada when you’re denied boarding, the Canada Transport Act stipulates that all compensation must be paid to the passenger “as early as operations allow”, but no longer than 48 hours after the customer was denied boarding.

However, for those using Air Canada elsewhere, you’ll need to gather all relevant documents in order to make your claim. This should include all confirmations of your booking (email and print), your original boarding pass, your replacement ticket, alongside any other relevant documentation. If you make any essential purchases at the airport while you wait for your replacement flight, you should also keep your receipts for these - they could help support your claim and possibly even be covered.

Speak with Us

If you need any help or assistance with your claim, you can reach out to one of our legal experts, and we’ll help you through the process step-by-step. Our team works on a no-win, no-fee basis, so you don’t need to worry about incurring any extra expenses! With our help, we can make sure that you’re paid the compensation you deserve.

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FAQs

How often does Air Canada overbook flights?

As of 2024, airlines in Canada don’t have any public records showing how often they overbook their flights. That being said, Air Canada is transparent about engaging in overbooking, so there is always a small chance that you’ll end up being asked to give up your seat.

Should I give up my seat on an Air Canada flight?

If you volunteer to give up your seat on a flight, you’ll want to make sure you have plans in place for an alternative form of transport, as your compensation might not be available right away. You’ll also want to make sure you have enough expenses to cover you (for food, drink and other essentials) until the next flight.

What is the Air Canada standby list?

The Air Canada standby list is an option offered to eligible ticket holders, whereby passengers can waitlist for a space on an earlier flight than the one they’ve booked. Passengers coming from a bumped flight are typically not eligible to use the standby list.

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