Anxious to get home after the holidays, Carla Di Censo and her husband were furious when Air Canada cancelled their flight from Prince George, B.C., to Vancouver less than nine hours before take-off on New Year’s Eve. The disruption caused the couple and their young daughter to miss their connecting flight home to Ottawa.
“We were like, ‘What on earth is happening?’” Di Censo told Global News. “It took several hours to get through and ask [Air Canada] what was the reason for the delay. We were told on the phone: ‘crew constraints.’”
That information also appears in flight-status screenshots Di Censo provided to Global News.
As Di Censo’s flight was rescheduled a full 24 hours later, she, her husband and daughter made separate claims to Air Canada for compensation of $1,000 each under the newly created Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), which lay out airlines’ obligations to passengers for issues like flights disruptions and lost or damaged luggage.
The family’s claims, however, were all initially rejected. In communication seen by Global News, Air Canada justified the denials saying, “the delay was caused by an event outside of our control.” The airline’s message, however, incorrectly referenced a number of flights that, while part of the family’s trip, were not part of the claim.
Di Censo’s story is one of nearly a dozen involving Air Canada passengers who spoke to Global News who said they believe the airline is intentionally mis-referencing flights or misrepresenting the cause of flight delays. They claim Air Canada is doing this to avoid paying compensation under new rules that came into effect in December.
Di Censo posted about her experience on Facebook and received messages from other passengers who’d filed similar claims and claimed they received similarly puzzling denials referencing the wrong flights.
“How can somebody make the same mistake over and over again? It just seemed bizarre.”
New rules came into effect on Dec. 15, 2019, mandating that large airlines — like Air Canada, WestJet or Air Transat — must pay between $400 and $1,000 for flights when passengers are delayed by three hours or more. Smaller airlines, like Swoop or Flair, are required to pay anywhere from $125 to $500.
In mid-July, regulators enacted the first phase of APPR, which focused primarily on remedying travel mishaps like tarmac delays, lost baggage and overbooking.
Ten passengers who spoke with Global News provided documents and correspondence with Air Canada that showed flights cancelled or delayed for staffing or scheduling issues, which are considered within an airline’s control and eligible for compensation under the new regulations. All the claims, however, were initially rejected by Air Canada claiming events outside of its control caused the flight disruptions.
“I mean, is it very clear to me that it’s an approach that they’re using to avoid having to pay these claims out,” Di Censo said.
Air Canada eventually reversed its decision about Di Censo’s husband, acknowledging that compensation was owed under the APPR. The airline also offered $1,000 each in compensation to Di Censo herself and her daughter but, once again, referenced flights that were unrelated to the APPR claims.
Di Censo estimates it took her around 50 hours’ worth of phone calls, emails and research for her family to eventually gain compensation and an apology. She worries others may be unfairly denied and not know it.
“This is sort of like a systemic strategy not to pay people,” she said. “I think they’re just trying to confuse [the public] so that we … just sort of back off.”
Air Canada did not respond to a detailed list of questions about Di Censo’s case or others reported by Global News, but said the airline’s policy is to “fully abide by the APPR.”
“We have put in place the necessary processes and procedures to ensure compliance and are dealing with customers directly,” Air Canada said in a statement. “We have no additional information to offer, but would point out for context that since the APPRs first took effect we have transported more than 25 million customers.”
In another case involving a flight to Halifax, Cheryl Yates was initially told that her claim for a Dec. 27 flight home from Boston was ineligible for compensation. Even though Yates had a flight notification reporting crew constraints as the reason for the cancellation, Air Canada claimed the disruption was due to events outside its control.
The airline reversed its decision and acknowledged compensation of $1,000 was owed under APPR after Yates asked air passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs to intervene. The airline also said it would reimburse Yates for $85 for out-of-pocket expenses she’d incurred due to the delay.
In another case, Jesse Saindon and his wife were flying back home to New Brunswick from a vacation in Hawaii that took them from Maui to Vancouver and then on to Montreal. On the final leg of their trip from Montreal to Fredericton, their Feb. 1 flight was cancelled due to “crew constraints.”
Air Canada denied his claim for compensation citing “maintenance”. As in several other cases viewed by Global News, the airline’s response does not reference the flight that was part of the complaint.
“You’d think that if it was safety concerns, it would be in the email notifications that we got that it was a mechanical issue,” Saindon told Global News. “It’s pretty frustrating.”
Saindon said he has his “suspicions” about whether Air Canada is intentionally mischaracterizing claims.
“If the crew constraint thing is happening to a lot of people, which it seems to be, they would have to pay out, right? Why would you say crew constraints and then come back with safety issues? Those two things aren’t the same.”
Lukacs said there are two issues at play: an airline that is allegedly avoiding paying out compensations and unclear legislation enacted by federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau.
“It’s exactly what we predicted. The new rules don’t protect passengers properly and airlines take advantage,” Lukacs told Global News, adding that he’s been warning the government about this for more than two years.
Lukacs noted that compensation for delays or cancellations can be denied for maintenance required for safety purposes, something that creates the potential for airlines to misrepresent minor repairs and routine upkeep as safety-related.
“In Europe, the airlines cannot avoid compensation for claiming maintenance,” he said. “This is where the Canadian legislation misses the mark.”
In correspondence viewed by Global News, Air Canada frequently claimed disruptions were out of its control, referencing flights that were delayed because of maintenance.
“The inconsistent reasons [for denying compensation] demonstrate in my mind that the airline is lying and that they are not being honest with passengers,” Lukacs said.
Greg Cashin, who works for an oil and gas company in Calgary, attempted to claim $400 for a three-hour delay on a Jan. 26 Air Canada flight from Las Vegas to Calgary.
Although Air Canada’s assessment shows the flight was delayed due to “scheduling issues,” the airline denied his compensation request because the delay was “outside of our control.” However, a separate meal voucher issued for the same flight classified the reason for the delay as “controllable.”
“I’m a frequent traveller and I know what’s in their control and what’s outside of their control,” Cashin said. “This one was squarely within their control. It’s quite frustrating that they’re not being forthcoming about it.”
Nearly 10,000 air travel complaints since July 2019
Complaints related to the APPR are handled by the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).
The agency has said airlines are expected to document reasons for each flight delay and cancellation and must report information about flight disruptions to Transport Canada. Airlines caught breaking the new regulations could face up to $25,000 in fines for each violation.
CTA told Global News it has received nearly 10,000 air travel complaints since phase one of the APPR first came into effect on July 15, 2019. The agency said in an email:
“This is an unprecedented volume and we are currently evaluating the complaints, including whether they are all related to the APPR.”
CTA said it cannot comment on how many of the claims are attributable to a specific issue because it is still in the process of reviewing the complaints.
“Where the CTA receives a complaint regarding a flight disruption, the airline would have to demonstrate which category the disruption fell into and how it met its obligations,” the agency said. “If it were discovered that an airline had misrepresented the cause of a delay to the CTA, this would be taken very seriously and appropriate enforcement action would be taken.”
Asked whether Transport Minister Marc Garneau was investigating concerns around passenger complaints and potential loopholes in the new legislation, his office said the responsibility to enforce the new rules falls onto the CTA.
“Once passengers submit a claim to the CTA, the Agency will review the facts and make a decision. The outcome could require the airline to compensate passengers and possibly pay a fine for non-compliance with the regulations,” said Garneau’s press secretary Livia Belcea in an email.
“Since being fully implemented on December 15, 2019, the CTA has rigorously applied APPRs, demonstrating that the process is working.”
Canada to receive 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this week – CTV News
The federal government is expecting to receive more than 2.3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine this week, as public health officials brace for a potential fourth wave of infections.
Ottawa has already received more than 66 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, enough to fully immunize all eligible Canadians.
As of Tuesday, the federal government had 6.7 million COVID-19 vaccines in its national reserve, an amount that provinces and territories can draw from if they need more doses.
The new COVID-19 vaccine shipments come as Canada’s top doctor warns that the country could be headed towards a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases if public health restrictions are lifted before vaccination rates pick up.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dr. Theresa Tam said an updated national modelling for the pandemic trajectory suggests that the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 could drive a fourth wave of infections.
“The trajectory will depend on ongoing increase in fully vaccinated coverage and the timing, pace and extent of reopening,” Tam said.
“While some resurgence is expected as measures are eased, this updated model shows that if we maintain current levels of community-wide contacts, we would expect to see a modest increase in cases.”
Tam said the country could see a high increase of COVID-19 infections if reopening continues quickly before enough people are fully immunized.
“We could expect to see a sharp resurgence by the end of the summer,” she said.
She said the new forecast “reaffirms the need to take a cautious approach to relaxing public health measures to remain vigilant and responsive to signs of resurgence and to continue to increase first and second dose vaccine coverage.”
Canada reported an average of 640 new cases over the past seven days, she said, which is still 93 per cent lower than the peak of the third wave.
As of Friday, 80.3 per cent of those eligible had received a first dose, while 63.7 per cent are now fully vaccinated.
Tam said the country has made “great progress” on vaccinating those who are eligible over the last month, but there is a need to increase numbers of vaccinated even more.
“This means increasing fully vaccinated coverage above 80 per cent across all age groups and particularly in younger age groups where most of the transmission is occurring.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 2, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Canada's Quinn to become 1st openly transgender, non-binary athlete to win Olympic medal – CBC.ca
Canada’s appearance in the gold-medal match in Japan won’t be the only first for the women’s soccer team when it takes to the pitch Friday (10 p.m. ET on Thursday in Canada).
Quinn, a 25-year-old midfielder from Toronto, will also become the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to win an Olympic medal, as the team is assured of a gold or silver.
Quinn came out publicly as transgender in a social media post last fall, changed their pronouns to they/them and now goes by one name.
Since Canada’s 1-0 semifinal victory over the United States on Monday at Kashima Stadium, setting up the final against Sweden, Quinn said they’ve been “getting messages from young people saying they’ve never seen a trans person in sports before.”
Quinn played college soccer for Duke University in North Carolina, and is the highest-drafted Canadian in National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) history — taken third overall by the Washington Spirit in 2018. They now play for the OL Reign.
They won the bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio and were also on the squad that suffered a heartbreaking loss to the U.S. in London in 2012.
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Quinn came out last September, telling The Canadian Press it was partly because they were “tired of being misgendered” in society and the media, and also to be a “visible figure” for younger people who may be “questioning their gender, exploring their gender.”
WATCH | Redemption 9 years in the making — Canada to play for women’s soccer gold:
New guidelines coming for transgender athletes
At these Games, another transgender athlete has helped spark a conversation about greater inclusivity in sports. New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard, the first openly transgender Olympic weightlifter, competed Monday in the women’s +87-kg category, but was knocked out of medal contention by failing to complete a lift in the first portion of the event.
“Of course, I’m not entirely unaware of the controversy which surrounds my participation in these Games,” Hubbard said after exiting the competition. “And, as such, I’d particularly like to thank the IOC [International Olympic Committee] for, I think, really affirming their commitment to the principles of Olympism, and establishing that sport is something for all people. It is inclusive. It is accessible.”
In 2015, the IOC established a set of regulations for transgender athletes in the Games. It has said it will release updated guidelines in the coming months.
For Quinn, being an advocate and a role model is not new. While at Duke, Quinn sat on the board of the school’s chapter of Athlete Ally, an organization that aims to foster equal opportunity in sports regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“Athletics is the most exciting part of my life and it brings me the most joy,” Quinn told CBC Sports on Monday.
“If I can allow kids to play the sports they love, that’s my legacy and that’s what I’m here for.”
WATCH | While You Were Sleeping — Canada to play for gold, Biles is back:
Canada’s Delta-driven 4th wave of COVID-19 will be ‘different’ amid vaccinations: experts – Globalnews.ca
As public health officials warn of an incoming Delta variant-driven fourth wave of COVID-19, experts are saying that its spread will likely be “very, very different” than Canada’s previous waves.
The warning came from chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam on Friday, who pointed at the upward trend in cases across Canada. The public health agency of Canada’s long-range epidemic forecasts “suggests we are the start of a Delta-driven fourth wave,” Tam told reporters at a press conference.
Tam warned that if vaccine uptake doesn’t increase in the country’s younger populations, cases could eventually exceed some communities’ health-care system capacities.
The news also comes on the heels of a new CDC report and study, the former of which warned that the Delta COVID-19 variant could be as contagious as chickenpox and the latter pointing to a string of outbreaks even among those who have been vaccinated.
However, according to Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Queen’s University, Canada’s fourth wave of COVID-19 will differ greatly from its previous ones despite the CDC reports and warning from PHAC officials.
“If we have a fourth wave, it’s going to look very, very different than the previous waves,” said Evans.
Dr. Fauci says unvaccinated responsible for latest COVID-19 outbreak
He said that there’s “no way” that such a wave would be as big as the previous ones simply because of Canada’s vaccinations rates, which remain among the highest in the world.
Even with Canada’s rise in cases, Evans said that they would primarily be in unvaccinated communities, pointing to the fact that over 97 per cent of all new cases were among those who did not get a shot.
Canada added at least another 218 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing its total infections to 1,431,219. Another two deaths were reported as well, with the country’s death toll now standing at 26,600. Over 1.39 million people have recovered and more than 49.5 million vaccinations have been doled out.
Active cases now look to be on the rise across the country, though. Thursday saw another 903 new cases, Friday 897 more and Saturday another 531. In comparison, Canada recorded 391 recoveries on Thursday, 412 on Friday and 190 on Saturday.
This weekend’s COVID-19 data is limited, however, with only Ontario and Quebec reporting new cases as of today.
CDC reinstates face mask recommendations amid U.S. surge in Delta variant cases
According to Evans, the CDC’s study on vaccinated people contracting COVID-19 after large events actually presents stronger evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines.
The main problem in the study he said was that the disease control agency was not reporting denominators — the amount of people that had visited or travelled around the state during the period which the study was conducted.
According to the CDC, 469 cases were found among Massachusetts residents from July 3 to 26, and of those, 74 per cent were among those fully vaccinated.
Evans estimated at least 100,000 people travelling and moving around the state’s events during that time period, and that the only 469 cases reported among such high volume events were a better indicator of vaccine’s effectiveness.
Secondly, Evans pointed to the high vaccination rates in the state — Massachusetts has at least 72 per cent of its population having received at least one dose and over 63 per cent of its population fully vaccinated, compared to the national average of 57.7 per cent and 49.6 per cent, respectively.
Ottawa extending multiple COVID-19 subsidies for workers, businesses amid Delta variant spread
Speaking on the Roy Green Show, Dr. Ronald St John, the former WHO director for the Americas and national manager for Canada’s response to SARS, expressed caution when interpreting the findings of the internal CDC report that pointed at the ability of the Delta variant to spread like chickenpox.
He pointed out as well that the data in the report was not peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.
“I assume they mean [Delta is spreading among] unvaccinated people, but it’s not specified,” he said.
“How often they spread it, the frequency of spread — that’s what’s not clear to me in the data that’s been presented so far and so far, I think it’s just been an internal document that’s been spread around. So I’m waiting to see a little more data.”
Concerns rise over easing protocols amid Delta variant surge
According to University of Toronto epidemiologist Dr. Colin Furness, the next wave would be “primarily experienced by unvaccinated people.”
He pointed out in a previous interview with Global News that the vaccines were a “firebreak” that acted to prevent mass spread of the virus, as well as hospitalizations and severe outcomes.
Instead of the previous mass outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada, Furness said that they were now more likely to occur in non-vaccinated people, who “occur in clumps.”
“They’re not randomly, evenly distributed among the population. It’s a church group. It’s an ethnic group. It’s people in an apartment building,” he said.
— With files from The Canadian Press, Reuters, Eric Stober and Rachel Gilmore.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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