Air Canada has a virtual monopoly on travel in and out of Canada, so the airline understandably doesn’t give a flying (you know what) about its reputation. Canadians can bitch and moan about their flagship carrier and fume smoke under their toques until they catch on fire, but they have little choice when it comes to air travel. For Canadians, three things are certain in life: Death, taxes, and flying Air Canada.

Here’s a link to a previous post venting my disdain for Air Canada, and my post about the airline’s infamous “vomit class.” Rest assured, I’m not alone. Here’s a link to the Facebook, “I Hate Air Canada” page, here’s what some Tripadvisor posters think of the airline, here’s a taste of angry Air Canada social media postings, and here’s a roundup of six Canadian celebrities who have publicly professed how much they despise the airline.

Canadians are divided on many issues, but they are unified when it comes to hating Air Canada.

Air Canada’s latest customer FU is generating headlines around the world for its handling of an incident that’s a new low for the airline, which veteran Air Canada flyers likely thought wasn’t possible. It involves a Vancouver resident and loving grandson named Jake Moffatt, who booked a last-minute seat on Air Canada to Toronto so he could attend his grandmother’s funeral in November 2022.

Air Canada had Moffatt by the cojones and wanted $1,630.36 for a roundtrip ticket, according to Canada’s government funded CBC network. However, the chatbot Moffett “spoke with” on Air Canada’s website advised him that he was eligible for a significantly lower “bereavement fare,” providing he filed a claim within 90 days of making his Toronto trip. Moffatt wisely saved screenshots of his communications with Air Canada’s chatbot.

It turned out, Air Canada’s artificially intelligent chatbot wasn’t all that smart.  An Air Canada rep subsequently advised Moffatt that the chatbot provided “misleading words” and that the company’s bereavement policy did not apply discounts retroactively. Indeed, it says so in plain English and French on Air Canada’s website.

Air Canada reportedly offered Moffatt a $200 flight voucher that could be applied to another trip on the miserable airline and promised to make its chatbot a tad smarter. Moffatt held firm for an $800 refund, which was the difference between Air Canada’s full price ticket and its bereavement fee. He sued the airline in a British Columbia small claims court.

In an argument that appeared to leave a small claims court adjudicator aghast, Air Canada claimed that its chatbot was “a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions” and therefore the airline wasn’t responsible for the ignorance of its artificial intelligence and the erroneous information it dispensed.

“This is a remarkable submission,” wrote Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) member Christopher Rivers, who I’m speculating had his share of Air Canada horrors. “While a chatbot has an interactive component, it is still just a part of Air Canada’s website. It should be obvious to Air Canada that it is responsible for all the information on its website. It makes no difference whether the information comes from a static page or a chatbot.”

In a decision released this week, Rivers ordered Air Canada to pay Jake Moffatt $812 to cover the difference between the airline’s bereavement rates and the $1,630.36 he paid for full-price tickets to and from Toronto after his grandmother died.

bnn: The People’s Network

Moffatt’s victory has garnered global news coverage, calling attention to Air Canada’s dimwitted management. None of the news stories I’ve come across gave a shout out to the executive ultimately responsible for Air Canada’s legal matters and arguments.

Allow me to introduce you to Monsieur Marc Barbeau, Air Canada’s executive vice president and chief legal officer. Barbeau is a pretty important dude at the airline, as he is a member of the company’s Executive Committee and reports to CEO Michael Rousseau.

Marc Barbeau/Air Canada

Barbeau’s legal creds are impressive. Prior to joining Air Canada in July 2021, Barbeau was Chair of Stikeman Elliott LLP, one of the top law firms in Canada, and a member of its Partnership Board and Executive Committee. Barbeau’s bio says he practiced for more than 30 years in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and governance, and “offered guidance to businesses and their senior leaders and board of directors as they navigated through transformative transactions, partnerships and other pivotal moments.”

Barbeau was appointed to a pro bono committee of experts that advised the Québec Ministers of Finance that resulted in a long-awaited reform of the province’s business corporations legislation. He also is an Adjunct Professor in Corporate Finance at McGill University’s law faculty.

Notably, Barbeau’s bio makes no mention of having any experience appearing before a small claims court adjudicator.

Air Canada is based in Montreal, whose airfield is called Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, named after Canada’s 15th Prime Minister and father of Canada’s current prime minister. Yes, I’m aware of the rumor that Justin’s real father was Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, but the media has provided multiple assurances the rumor isn’t true, despite the striking resemblances and Trudeau himself often behaving like a dictator.

National Post, March 4, 2022

Air Canada’s biggest hub is Toronto, whose airport is called Lester B. Pearson International Airport, named after an internationally respected Oxford-educated diplomat who served as Canada’s prime minister from 1963-1968 and was awarded a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1957.

Yes, Canadians once chose a man of letters to represent them.

Seems to me, it would be appropriate for Air Canada to rebrand and also name itself after a Canadian prime minister – one who most embodies the airline’s arrogance, mismanagement, and penchant for controversy.

Justin Trudeau Airlines. It has a nice ring to it.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.