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Agency ACTS On Airline Complaints


Perhaps FAA should look North for how it's done

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Mar 30, 2008

Do you have a complaint about an airline? Are you stuck on the tarmac in your attempts to get attention?

Send your complaints to Ottawa – more specifically, to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is slow, but surprisingly successful in dealing with airline disputes.

Doron Horowitz got a refund this week from British Airways, which had ignored him for months but acted immediately when the CTA became involved.

He had booked a return trip from Toronto to London and Tel Aviv, leaving on July 4, 2007.

"This was not a cheap ticket (just over $3,000), but it did have restrictions," he told me.

On July 1, there was a bombing at Glasgow airport that backed up flights. British Airways said people about to travel could change or cancel bookings without penalty.

On July 3, Horowitz cancelled and asked for a refund. He got a credit of $554.82 in August.

But where was the rest of his money? He called and called, sent faxes and letters, but never got a full refund.

"British Airways no longer has any offices in Canada. If it did, I would have gone to small claims court," he says. "Everything is handled by a call centre in Florida."

He eventually called the airline's U.K. office, which promised help. All it did was confirm the $554.82 credit was a refund of taxes paid.

In January, Horowitz wrote to me and I redirected him to the CTA. He was warned the process could take up to four months.

But within two months, he got a credit for the full amount he had paid on his Visa statement.

"I feel that others should be warned not to give up," he says.

"BA didn't get away with it in my case, in part because I am a stubborn so-and-so, but also because I am a seasoned traveller with many years of experience."

He's still annoyed: "BA dragged its feet and stonewalled me at every step of the way."

I tracked down a British Airways contact in the United States (there's no one in Canada), who took responsibility for the error in refunding only the taxes.

"We apologize to Mr. Horowitz for not delivering the level of service our customers expect," said spokesperson Michele Kropf.

Robert Sarner also achieved liftoff with a complaint when he went to the CTA (at my suggestion).

Air Canada lost his wife's luggage, which was later found damaged with missing contents, and never paid any compensation.

"An Air Canada rep eventually contacted us, apologized for how the whole matter had been mishandled and offered us the maximum compensation allowed (nearly $1,800), along with a $500 travel voucher," Sarner told me.

"It may have taken well over a year to be resolved, but better late than never. It certainly would not have happened without the CTA."

The agency had a high-profile commissioner, former hockey referee Bruce Hood, from 2000 to 2002. It's less-known now, but still handles complaints.

You can go there with disputes about baggage, tickets, fares, reservations, flight disruptions, denied boarding, refusal to transport, unaccompanied children or animals and carrier-operated loyalty programs, such as Aeroplan.

The CTA won't take complaints about quality of service, tour operators, travel agents, aircraft safety, cabin standards, airport security and non-carrier loyalty programs (such as Air Miles).

You can file an online complaint at www.cta-otc.gc.ca, fax 1-819-953-5686 or write to the Canadian Transportation Agency, Air Travel Complaints Program, Ottawa, Ont. K1A 0N9.

thestar.com

Perhaps FAA should look North for how it's done
cta-otc.gc.ca



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