Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada denied a plaintiff’s motion for leave to appeal filed in May by a Montreal man who was banned for life by Air Canada for threatening airline employees after he missed his flight. (Guillaume Boutin v. Air Canada)
The incident occurred at the Cancun, Mexico airport just prior to Boutin’s return flight to Montréal, Quebec, Canada, on February 29, 2012.
Boutin maintains that, while waiting in the Business Lounge at the Cancun airport, he and his travelling companion were misinformed by the Air Canada employees about the boarding time for their return flight from Cancun to Montréal, and that Air Canada failed to post its flight schedule, causing them to miss their flight. Boutin submits that he asked an Air Canada employee at the airport if he could arrange to have the aircraft return and, if not, to at least put them on another flight. However, this employee, in Boutin’s view, was uncompromising, very rude and arrogant. Boutin and his companion were able to leave Cancun the following day on another Air Canada flight, with extra fees incurred.
Air Canada claims that when it came time to board the flight, the concierge notified all passengers to head to the boarding gate. Air Canada adds that boarding for the flight was clearly posted on all screens in the Business Lounge but that despite these announcements, Boutin decided to stay in the Business Lounge as he was still on the phone with the hotel where he had forgotten his wallet and cell phone. Air Canada maintains that several general and personal calls were made in the waiting areas to indicate that final boarding. Following Air Canada procedures, Boutin’s name was removed from the passenger list only nine minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure time.
Air Canada asserts that Boutin falsely declared that he missed his flight because of Air Canada employees while he:
- used abusive and vulgar language;
- threatened to ensure that they lost their jobs; and
- hit the service desk and attempted to grab the counter agent.
Thus, Air Canada decided to no longer accept Boutin as a passenger until he could demonstrate to Air Canada’s satisfaction that he no longer poses a threat to the safety and comfort of Air Canada’s passengers and crew. To memorialize the travel ban, a letter was sent to and received by Boutin.
Boutin admitted he was upset and did complain “forcefully,” the CTA documents say, but he maintains he never swore and didn’t make any offending gestures.
Boutin filed a grievance with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) asking that the travel ban be lifted, and he requested compensation in the amount of CND 30,000 for “moral damages and trouble and inconvenience” as well as a letter of apology, according to CTA documents.
The Transportation Agency concluded that Air Canada did not contravene the provisions of its rules and therefore dismissed Mr. Boutin’s complaint. (However, the Agency encouraged Air Canada to reconsider the travel ban imposed on Mr. Boutin because the incident in question was a one-time event.) With regard to Mr. Boutin’s request for damages in the amount of CND 30,000, the Agency found that there is nothing in the Agency’s enabling legislation that would allow the Agency to award compensation for these damages.
- November 20, 2012 – Boutin’s complaint in relation to a permanent travel ban imposed on him by Air Canada was first dismissed by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) (Agency Decision No. 444-C-A-2012 full text here).
- March 2013 – CTA’s decision was backed by the Federal Court of Appeal, to which he filed this motion for leave to the Supreme Court of Canada on May 13, 2013.
- August 22, 2013 – Leave for appeal dismissed [denied].
So, do YOU think Air Canada’s “life ban” was too harsh?
Were Boutin’s alleged physical actions the tipping point for Air Canada’s decision?