Help! Air Canada Ruined Our Trip to Ireland but Won’t Take the Blame.

Dear Tripped Up,

Last September, my husband and I left our kids with their grandparents and set off to Ireland. Our $2,132 itinerary took us from Minneapolis to Toronto to Dublin on tickets booked on United Airlines through Expedia but ultimately operated by Air Canada, a United partner. We had boarded our connecting flight in Toronto (and I was already dozing in my seat) when the captain announced an operator had crashed the jet bridge into the starboard engine. We were given hotel vouchers and told we would be rebooked for the next day. Checkout time came and went without a word, so we went to the airport and were told to call Air Canada customer service. An agent booked us a flight for that evening, and we printed out boarding passes at an airport kiosk. But when we tried to board, we were told the boarding passes were invalid. Eventually, we were offered two options for the next day: Fly to Dublin via Newark, or return to Minneapolis. We cut our losses and went home after staying the night in Toronto at a hotel. But United refunded us only $1,087, barely half of what we paid. Air Canada did reimburse us for the second hotel and other expenses, but we believe the airlines owe us not only a full refund, but also 400 Canadian each ($295 apiece) under Canadian law for denied boarding. Both refused. Can you help? Michelle, Edina, Minn.

Dear Michelle,

I found the 58-page dossier you sent along with your story to be quite convincing. (It also convinced me that either you or your husband is a lawyer, which turns out to be true.)

I skipped over Expedia, since your trip had already started, and reached out to United and Air Canada — as you flew on an airline’s partner, it’s a code share arrangement. A spokeswoman for United, Erin Jankowski, quickly sent me a statement noting that the refund you received from United was as per Air Canada’s instructions and referred all other questions to it.

Air Canada, on the other hand, took almost two weeks to get back to me, and its response was underwhelming.

“Our records indicate these customers were not denied boarding in Toronto,” wrote Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the airline. “Instead, it appears that following the cancellation of their original flight to Ireland they opted to return to Minneapolis from Toronto rather than go to Dublin following the delay. Once that was identified, we did rebook the customers on a flight back to Minneapolis.”

No compensation, no word on the $1,045 still missing from your refund and no explanation as to how you were turned away at the gate for your second flight and yet “not denied boarding.”

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