Canada: denied boarding claim dismissed by Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The plaintiff booked a seven-day trip to Jamaica with WestJet. On September 18, 2011he was given a boarding pass for the outward flight when he presented his Canadian citizenship card at the airport. After a week in Jamica, he presented himself for boarding for the return flight but was denied baording because  he did not have a passport but only presented his Canadian driver's licence, health card and social insurance card. The plaintiff  protested, arguing that the citizenship card had been sufficient for him to travel to Jamaica. The duty manager then changed the restrictions on the plaintiff's ticket so that he could use it on a later date when he returned with a valid passport.

However, for the next two weeks the plaintiff did not determine whether another airline would carry him to Canada; nor did he seek an emergency passport. Instead, on October 9 2011, he rebooked his return online and turned up at the airport with a Jamaican passport and his Canadian citizenship card. He was successfully repatriated. He then sued WestJet for breach of contract.

The Court pointed out that WestJet was required, pursuant to legislation and government policy, to thoroughly screen passengers travelling to Canada to ensure that when they present themselves to a Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) officer, they will be able to be permitted to enter the country.  This task involved assessing the integrity of the documents presented for the purpose of identifying the passenger’s identity and status.  Failure to do so may result in penalties to WestJet should the passenger be denied entry, including fines and other expenses, loss of license, and seizure of aircraft. WestJet’s Tariff contained a rule whereas WestJet reserved the right to refuse to transport a passenger if the travel documents of such passenger are not in order or such passenger's entry into, transit through or embarkation from Canada or any other point would be unlawful.

There was no obligation pursuant to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to transport to Canada a passenger who presents a Canadian Citizenship Card (a “CCC”) as a travel document. Since the plaintiff did not have a passport, he was not able to meet the requirements to prove that he was a Canadian citizen.  He was therefore not entitled to be accepted for travel to Canada and WestJet could properly refuse to allow him to board without a passport. WestJet thus exercised its right properly under its contract of carriage with the plaintiff when it refused to allow him to board the return flight. The claim was dismissed.

Find full text of judgement Robotham v WestJet Airlines, 2014 ONSC 3141 of May 26, 2014 here>>

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