Saturday, February 04, 2006

Air Canada loses check-in time fight
But airline, transportation agency urge travellers to still adhere to recommended check-in times
Feb. 3, 2006. 04:17 PM

Air Canada is urging passengers to arrive for their flights as early as possible despite losing a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling this week that sided with two passengers who weren’t allowed to board their plane after arriving about 45 minutes before their departure time.

The agency this week ruled in favour of Craig McIntyre of Montreal and ordered Air Canada to pay $1,482.92. That’s the value of the tickets that McIntyre had to purchase from WestJet to return his sons to Edmonton because Air Canada refused to let them board because they hadn’t checked in an hour before their flight.

“It’s still important that people leave lots of time to get to the airport,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said today. “Traffic can be bad. Sometimes it’s hard to park. The airport can get congested if it’s busy. If you’re going overseas, you have Customs. It’s important people leave a lot of time so you’re not rushing.

“We can’t hold up planes, that would inconvenience all the other passengers.”

While Air Canada recommends that passengers arrive one hour before departure for in-Canada flights, the agency ruled that the only hard-and-fast rule is that passengers must be through security and in the departure lounge 25 minutes before their departure, something the agency ruled the McIntyres could have done.

The agency issued a statement today urging travellers to comply with check-in time “recommendations” after a newspaper report “left the impression that travellers do not have to respect air carriers’ check-in times. This is not the case,” the agency said.

“It is in the best interest of travellers to always verify with their carrier how long in advance of the flight time they must check in. Therefore, travellers should arrive at the airport with plenty of time to check in, clear security and reach the departure gate.”

McIntyre’s sons, Eric and Scott, were to travel on Air Canada’s Flight No. AC181 from Montreal to Edmonton on May 17, 2004. McIntyre said he dropped his sons at the airport at about 8:10 a.m. for the 8:55 a.m. flight.

McIntyre helped them inside the airport, leaving his vehicle unattended, then went back to park the car, producing as evidence his parking receipt marked for 8:24 a.m.

The McIntyres say Air Canada would not check the two boys in for the flight because they were too late in arriving at the check-in counter.

In a written statement, Scott and Eric state that the agent advised them that Air Canada did not check in passengers who arrived 30 minutes before a flight. The agent refused to reconsider her position when McIntyre’s sons pointed out that they still had 45 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart.

Air Canada indicates that the recommended check-in time for flights within Canada is 60 minutes in advance of a flight and that failing to meet this requirement will result in the cancellation of a passenger’s reservation.

McIntyre argued that the tickets did not contain time limits for check-in and that when he showed the tickets to the Air Canada agents at the check-in counter, they agreed.

But McIntyre’s sons weren’t allowed to check in and had to buy new tickets from WestJet. “Air Canada did not present any concrete evidence in contradiction of Mr. McIntyre’s position,” the agency wrote in its decision.

“The agency is of the opinion that had Scott and Eric been allowed the opportunity to reach the boarding gate in sufficient time for the 25-minute cut-off, they may have been able to do so.”

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