There are many ways in which passengers book air travel. Some
use travel agents or tour companies, while others choose to book
their travel online. Travel agents ought to be well accustomed to
leaving adequate time between flights. When booking online,
travellers are generally warned about tight connection times. In
some cases, however, the question of timing could be due to
time-sensitive commitments at the destination. For example, many
people schedule short stop-overs for business meetings, while
others fly to cities to connect onto cruises or other holiday
packages. How much extra time should a person give themselves in
these circumstances? The Quebec Small Claims Court recently dealt
with this very issue.
In Desjardins c. Air Canada inc., 2016 QCCQ
2619, the Court considered what damages were available to
a couple who missed a cruise because their flight was delayed. The
couple was scheduled to fly from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale,
leaving at 7 a.m. and arriving before mid-day. They were booked on
a cruise scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, their departure was delayed by seven hours and they
missed their cruise.
They sued the airline pursuant to article 19 of the Montreal
Convention, an international treaty governing liability with
respect to international air travel and to which Canada is a
signatory. Article 20 allows the carrier to argue that the
"damage" suffered by the passenger was caused or
contributed to by that passenger's own wrongful act or
omission. The couple sought reimbursement for a hotel stay in
Florida resulting from the delay and airfare to catch up to the
cruise ship at its next port. They also sought compensation for the
missed time on the cruise and for the inconvenience caused by the
The Court agreed that they were entitled to compensation, and
quantified their damages at $6,809.49. The Court then reduced that
award by 50% based upon a finding that the couple was
contributorily negligent. The Court considered the fact that they
were experienced travellers and that they had considered flying to
Florida a day early so as to be sure that they would not miss their
cruise. In the circumstances, the Court found that a reasonable
traveller would have arrived in Florida a night early.
The most interesting part of this case is the manner in which
the Court found that the couple contributed to 50% of their losses.
While article 20 of the Montreal Convention allows for
contribution arguments, these are generally limited to arguing that
a passenger was the actual cause of the delay of the flight, not
that the passenger's booking arrangement contributed to his or
The Court's direction appears clear: the more important it
is that a passenger arrives by a certain time at the destination
(financially important or otherwise), the more time that passenger
should leave themselves as a "buffer". In the
author's opinion, this point makes practical sense because
flight delays do occur regularly, many times due to circumstances
beyond anyone's control. Cutting it too close is a choice that
travellers often regret.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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