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Compensation |  Airlines sign confidentiality agreements

Compensation | Airlines sign confidentiality agreements

Major Canadian airlines are asking some of their passengers who want compensation for delays or cancellations to sign non-disclosure agreements if they want to get paid.

Passengers who file lawsuits after a significant flight delay or cancellation are often offered a refund. However, this supposed gesture of good faith has a problem: the passenger must sign a confidentiality agreement and drop their suit.

The Canadian Press contacted more than 20 Canadian airline customers who had to endure this scenario. Some rejected the offer, others accepted it. It appears that the highest amount was one thousand dollars.

For example, Colleen Dafoe was scheduled to leave in December 2022 for the Dominican Republic with her husband and daughter to celebrate her 50th anniversary.H anniversary, but the flight was canceled by WestJet.

She said the company offered to leave after more than 10 days, long after the couple had been on vacation. MI Instead, Dafoe sued WestJet in small claims court. Then a company lawyer offered them a full refund of the tickets on one condition: signing a non-disclosure agreement.

“My husband and I were procrastinating. “Part of us wanted to stand our ground and reject this confidentiality requirement because airlines shouldn’t silence people when they don’t follow the rules.”I Davo.

But the couple ended up accepting the agreement that prevents them from revealing how much they received.

WestJet says it “does not comment publicly on nondisclosure agreements, regardless of the reason or circumstances.”

His case appears to be part of a pattern spread by the two major Canadian airlines, WetJet and Air Canada, which initially offered vouchers worth between $150 and $300 to complaining customers. If they reject the offer and go to court, the companies agree to compensate them in full or may offer them more money if a non-disclosure clause is added to the agreement.

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Air Canada states that these confidentiality provisions are common in dispute resolution. It says it pays compensation when the client deserves it.

“These provisions are designed to protect the integrity of the negotiation process because every case is different. We cannot directly compare the regulations to each other,” company spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick wrote in an email.

Consumer advocates reject the idea that NDAs are common.

According to Sylvie de Belvieuil, budget consultant and legal advisor at Option consommateurs, airlines mainly want to suppress negative feedback, both online and in court.

“They don’t want to set precedents. They don’t want to read on social media that someone has made a $500 deal with Air Canada,” she says.

Sometimes settlements are less than the amounts claimed. Many clients don’t know they can decline the first offer, says John Lawford, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Advocacy.

“These stronger companies use great methods,” he laments. It’s a scandal, it’s petty, it’s bad sports. However, the amounts involved are not large. They want to muzzle critics. It imposes silence on what could reveal other problems within the airlines. »

From a purely commercial point of view, airlines are acting sensibly under the current rules, agrees Gabor Lukács, head of Travelers’ Rights. He emphasizes that these provisions prevent the proliferation of cases before the courts.

“From an economic point of view, they are making the right decision. Airlines are neither good nor bad. They are simply choosing optimal strategies in a game in which the dice are loaded onto passengers.”

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Under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, airlines are required to provide passengers with either a refund or a rebooking, at the passenger’s choice, in the event of a flight cancellation or extended delay due to a situation unrelated to the airline’s wishes.

As of Dec. 5, there were about 61,000 complaints pending before the Canadian Transport Agency, which oversees the program. Many passengers prefer to avoid going through this process – which is only done after the airline rejects the complaint – due to the wait, which can reach up to two years in some cases.

To speed up the process and convince passengers to deal with regulatory authorities rather than the courts, the agency created “complaint resolution officer” positions. About fifty people were employed. Their training began in mid-August. The office plans to hire an additional 50 people next year.