Air Canada's Bait-and-Switch Tactics

Jayan Kandathil

First published , last updated

It is hard to believe but large and reputed corporations like Air Canada do commit fraud on their customers.

Let me explain what happened to me recently. I had been in India to take care of my 81-yr old mother who had had a few strokes and was rendered bed-ridden and unable to speak. Since the Canadian federal government had extended the ban on direct flights to Canada from India, and required negative RT-PCR COVID-19 tests from a 3rd country, I was desperately looking for a way to fly back to Canada via a third country. The Air Canada flight (AC 059) from Doha (Qatar) to Toronto was part of this plan. The idea was to get the 3rd country COVID test in Doha and board the flight for Toronto after 10 days quarantine that the Qatar government stipulated. Note that I'd been fully vaccinated in Ontario with Pfizer's mRNA vaccine before I headed to India. I ended up booking "Business Class (flexible)" because "Economy" was NOT available.


Here is the confirmation webpage I received when I committed the transaction (click the image to load a higher-resolution image). It explicitly states that it is "fully refundable". The ticket cost USD $5,560.98 (CAD $7,176.91).



The official booking confirmation PDF that I received a few minutes later had the following fine print on page 5 (6 pages total) (click the image to load a higher-resolution image)


Refund - Not!

It turned out that I needed to cancel this booking. The government of Qatar forces anyone visiting to book quarantine hotels through their own "Qatar Holidays" website. I was able to successfully book directly at the Westin Doha, but that wouldn't be acceptable. I could not find any hotel rooms for the days that I was planning to be in Doha (see below - (click the image to load a higher-resolution image).

No Hotels Available

I spoke with two Air Canada customer service folks. Each readily tried to cancel the flight and give me the refund, then muttered "wait a minute", put me on hold while they spoke with their "fare desk", and eventually came back very apologetic saying "Sir, I can't help you here, our system wouldn't let us." One commented that this has been happening more and more lately on certain Business Class tickets.

I ended up being forced to choose the ["travel voucher" for future flights with Air Canada] option. Obviously, this rewards Air Canada even when they're defrauding their customers. The only other option was "Aeroplan credits".

If you read this Air Canada web page, you can clearly see that the "Business Class (flexible)" is refundable. The web page confirming my successful booking explicitly stated this as well.


  1. Air Passenger Rights
  2. See Twitter thread with @AirPassRightsCA led by Gabor Lukacs.

  3. Dispute Charge with Credit Card Company (MasterCard)
  4. Done. They issued me a "temporary" refund.

  5. Submit Complaint with Air Canada
  6. Done. I received a case number (CAS-3765498-T4V7X5).

  7. Submit Complaint to [Transport Canada]
  8. I can only do this if/after Air Canada comes back with an unfavourable decision

  9. Submit "public comment" to the [Canadian Transportation Agency]
  10. Done. They're formulating regulations regarding refunds. They responded by pointing me to their [Air Passenger Protection] website.

  11. Try to Get CBC's [Go Public] Interested
  12. Tried. They did not take this up.

Latest Updates

(Sep 13, 2021) Received the [travel voucher]s from Air Canada

(Sep 02, 2021) Air Canada [Customer Relations] acknowledged by e-mail that this was a mistake. I've been advised to wait till my travel vouchers are issued, and then contact them with those for a refund.