Halifax pair win $800 from WestJet for Christmas Day flight delays

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A pair from Halifax have won a victory over WestJet after a bad Christmas travel delay.

Eliza Richardson and Benjamin Friedrich were due to fly from Halifax to Toronto before Christmas Day last year. They didn’t make it in time to celebrate — they arrived 51 hours late due to delays on their WestJet flight.

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The airline attempted to argue in court that the entire delay was due to weather conditions out of their control. However, the small claims adjudicator sided with the pair, concluding that more than three hours of of the Christmas Day delay were due to factors within the airline’s control, even if the original flight cancellation and rescheduling was due to unsafe landing conditions in Toronto.

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The first flight was set to leave Dec. 23. It was drizzly and above zero in Halifax, but 1,300 kilometres away in Toronto, it was -13 degrees Celsius with snow. The flight was cancelled, and though the pair weren’t informed at the time, they later found out it was because of the weather in Toronto.

They were rescheduled for a flight two days later: Departing at 7:25 p.m. on Christmas Day and arriving just after 9 p.m. in Toronto. But the day they were to depart, WestJet informed them that the flight was delayed because of “flight crew member availability.” The flight was initially delayed by 50 minutes.

Later in the day, it was delayed another two hours. But it didn’t depart until another hour past that — and the flight landed after midnight on Boxing Day, around three-and-a-half hours late.

The pair filed for compensation under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations. It allows for a minimum of $400 compensation if a flight is more than three hours delayed.

WestJet denied the claim, saying “the most significant reason for your flight interruption was due to weather in your destination and outside of WestJet’s control.”

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The company argued that the overall delay — some 51 hours — was primarily due to weather conditions, even if the delay on Dec. 25 was because of crew availability. If the small claims court agreed that weather was the primary cause of the delay, there would have been no compensation owed, but crew availability is considered a factor within the airline’s control.

Michael J. O’Hara, the small claims court adjudicator, found that there was no evidence that the Dec. 25 delay was attributable to the cancellation of the flight on Dec. 23 because of weather conditions. WestJet “offered no evidence to show that (it) took all ‘reasonable measures to mitigate the impact of the earlier flight cancellation,’” he wrote.

Had WestJet made the argument that the Dec. 25 flight was delayed because of the weather two days earlier, it may have had reason to deny the compensation. In the end, the airline had to pay a total of $899.70 to the pair to cover $400 each for the compensation claims as well as court costs.

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