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Air Canada must inform public that some Canadians are excluded from class action: Quebec judge


A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered that a notice be made public informing Canadians that they may be excluded from a class action against Air Canada.

The lawsuit aims to compensate disabled travellers forced to pay extra for attendant seats on domestic flights between Dec. 5, 2005, and Dec. 5, 2008. The action now only includes Quebec residents.

According to Quebec Superior Court judge Daniel Dumais, Air Canada had argued that a public notice was "not mandatory and should not be given."

However, the judge disagreed and ordered the dissemination of a public notice within 60 days of the May 15 judgment.

In 2019, the court partially agreed with the plaintiffs but excluded tickets purchased outside of Quebec.

"[The] Judgment on the class action concludes that the defendant committed a discriminatory act and a civil fault with respect to the members of the group," the judgment reads.

An air passenger rights advocate, Dr. Gabor Lukacs, says the 2019 ruling was long overdue.

"One thing to add is that while the one person, one fare rule is the leading rule in terms of disability rights, unfortunately, Canada has not pushed it further, and has not extended it to flights to and from Canada," Lukacs said. 

"We respectfully disagree with that. Our understanding is that when it comes to accommodating disabilities, Canada has the full right to impose the one-person, one-fare rule on all flights. Not only domestic ones but also flights to and from Canada."

The Quebec Court of Appeal then confirmed the judgment in 2021.

"The judgment orders a compensation and reclamation process on an individual, not collective, basis."

The class action lawsuit was first authorized in 2011 and covered disabled individuals and also those with a functional disability related to obesity who faced extra charges for seats adapted to their condition.

The suit also includes those travellers who had to pay extra fees when acting as the attendant for a person with a disability.

"I would also add that, to our understanding, there is currently a proposed class action in British Columbia which seeks to deal with exactly that issue for flights not only bought in Quebec but also flights from other parts of Canada, and it also deals with international travel," he noted. 

The British Columbia class action is still in the certification process. The advocate says he hopes the outcome will be the same as the one in Quebec in terms of upholding disability and passenger rights. 

Since January 2009, disabled or obese people who fly in Canada have been exempt from having to pay for a second seat if they have a medical certificate.

According to Lukacs, Air Canada appears to have a very "combative litigation strategy." Additionally, he said this type of ruling is not good publicity for the airline. 

Lawyer David Bourgoin, who is representing the plaintiffs, says that the court will determine a compensation process in the fall. Moreover, the judgment states that the reclamation process will be on an individual basis. Top Stories

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