An airline has been ordered by a B.C. tribunal to pay two travellers about $775 after they were denied boarding because of the date of a positive COVID-19 test.
The dispute between Joel Mackoff and Mia Mackoff against Air Canada was heard by B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal. The Mackoffs claimed Air Canada "improperly refused to allow either of them" to board a flight in February because of the timing of Mia’s positive COVID-19 test.
Air Canada admitted to prohibiting Mia from boarding the flight, but denied it prevented Joel from getting on the plane. The airline also claimed the Mackoffs didn’t prove they tried to mitigate their damages.
The tribunal heard the Mackoffs bought a ticket to fly from Los Angeles to Vancouver on Feb. 15 and had proof of a positive COVID-19 test that Mia had taken on Feb. 5. In February, some COVID-19 restrictions were still in place for those entering Canada.
The Mackoffs submitted a screenshot of Air Canada’s website taken that day, which said passengers could fly to Canada with proof of a positive COVID-19 test result taken between 10 and 180 days before their departure. At the time, COVID-19 tests could be used to enter the country in lieu of showing proof of vaccination, though the tribunal’s decision didn’t elaborate on the pair’s vaccination status.
"Mr. Mackoff says he attempted to check in for the flight at the Los Angeles airport. He says an Air Canada agent said ‘they’ were not permitted to fly that day, due to Mrs. Mackoff’s Feb. 5, 2022 positive test result," tribunal member Sherelle Goodwin’s decision, which was posted this week, says, explaining he was told they had to fly the next day.
In other words, the Mackoffs were told their 10-day calculation between the test being taken and the flight was incorrect. But Goodwin agreed with the Mackoffs that, based on Air Canada’s own wording, Mia’s Feb. 5 test met the result requirement on Feb. 15.
Goodwin said the decision was made based on the balance of probabilities, meaning one scenario was more likely than not.
The Mackoffs and Air Canada also disagreed over whether Joel was permitted to board the flight.
"Mr. Mackoff said another Air Canada agent at the Los Angeles airport booked ‘them’ on a different flight to Vancouver for the following day," Goodwin’s wrote in her decision.
"He specifically says that none of the Air Canada employees he spoke with told him he was permitted to board the Feb. 15, 2022 flight without Mrs. Mackoff. Rather, Mr. Mackoff says the Air Canada employees referred to both applicants together when refusing them boarding and when rebooking their flights."
But Air Canada claimed it never refused boarding to Mackoff, though it didn’t provide supporting evidence to the tribunal.
"In his statement, Mr. Mackoff described distinct conversations he had with each employee, provided the supervisor’s name, and submitted the diagram he drew while trying to explain to the employees how to count the 10 calendar days," Goodwin wrote.
"As Mr. Mackoff’s witness statement includes so much detail, and as Air Canada has produced no contrary statement, I accept that Air Canada refused to transport both Mr. and Mrs. Mackoff on Feb. 15, 2022 and so breached its contract with them."
Ultimately, Goodwin determined the Mackoffs were entitled to the expenses incurred as a result of their delayed trip. That included food, hotel and transportation, totalling just under $600. The pair is also entitled about $175 to cover CRT fees and pre-judgement interest, the tribunal ruled.
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