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Denied boarding because of 8.5lb dog... why?

Denied boarding because of 8.5lb dog... why?

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Old Apr 13, 19, 12:39 pm
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Denied boarding because of 8.5lb dog... why?

Long time lurker- first time poster. Really frustrated with Air Canada right now looking for some guidance. Sorry for the long post just want to be transparent with all the details.

My husband and I are somewhat frequent fliers but not loyal to a particular airline (we accumulate points/$ value via our Scotia Visa & Amex). Having said that, this would of been my dog’s 4th flight with AC and he has twice flown on Westjet. I am no stranger to traveling with a dog, As in the past due to work relocations we have had to fly with our dog I try to always be prepared.

We gifted my Mother a trip to Quebec City to celebrate her 60th birthday. We had to stay local as unfortunately my Mom is currently undergoing treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. AC was aware of this as I had filled out the “fit to travel” form and had written statements from her oncologists (which was another ordeal to begin with). Having said that, I just truly wanted a relaxing weekend getaway for our family.

We flew YYZ-YQB without incident on April 5 with WS aboard the Q400. We took along our 8.5lb Shih Tzu. We have a medium sized Original Deluxe Sherpa Pet Carrier for him: http://www.flygob.com/airlines/aircanada

As I’m familiar with the pet policies and like to eliminate headaches:
  • I booked the tickets on 03/21 and called both Westjet & AC to pay the pet fee within an hour of booking. Double checked both confirmations after payment.
  • When you call and add the pet fee you are asked the dog’s weight / breed and carrier info which I provided.
  • As we had just flown with him to Florida and Vegas over the last few months I had a signed Health Certificate from my vet (valid until the end of April) that documents his weight, breed and vaccines.
  • The manufacturer (Sherpa) has a “guaranteed on board” program with AC. I had the paperwork on hand showing the carrier dimensions and in the event you are denied boarding the agent must fill out the form and you will be reimbursed. I also had proof of purchase information on the carrier itself (weight and breed guidelines).
On Sunday April 7 we arrived at YQB airport at approx 5:45-5:50pm to check in at the counter for our AC Rouge flight (AC1799 at 19:15) back to YYZ. Wth a pet you can’t check in online so we checked in with the agent and she asked to see the dog and we were issued paper boarding passes (no checked baggage). We had booked a Basic Fare.

We were in Zone 3 and were among the first in our zone to board. We had a busy day so our dog was sleeping zipped up in his carrier. When I handed the agent my boarding pass he asked to see the pet. So I unzipped the carrier and he appeared- and the agent firmly stated (he’s too big for that carrier!) and asked us to move aside (I told my parents to go on board and my husband stayed behind.)

The agent sitting next to him (who claimed he was a manager) immediately went on the AC website from the computer to read me the guidelines. He claimed the carrier was too small. I presented him with all the paperwork from the carrier/health certificate and he said “no this is inhumane”. I even told him to go check my previous flights with AC (had the confirmations/PNR in my email and photo evidence) that we had completed other flights with him- and again he said no. My husband asked him to call a superior (but he said he had final say) and that we really needed to get on this flight and had flown WS without issue just 2 days earlier. He told my husband “no you aren’t getting on either” and that Westjet doesn’t have the same “pet friendly” policies as AC? I then asked the agent to fill in the form I had that we were being denied boarding- he didn’t even look at it and went back to typing on the computer. I can appreciate the fact that the AC agents are NOT dog experts and my dogs looks can be decieving given his long fur coat (however given the paperwork with his weight he could of also weighed him?)

...Within seconds security approached the desk and asked me if there was a problem. I explained to both guards the issue and they asked we step back. I heard him talk to the gate agent who just said “no that dog is too big”. The security guards even said “that dog?” with a confused look. There was now another female agent who appeared and I heard her say “is the final destination Toronto? or are they onwards connecting?”.

Security came back to us and said- I’m sorry Air Canada says they can’t allow you to board. I asked the security guard “well can you have them fill this form out”. He went back to the desk and there was whispers. He came back to me and said “no the agent says he will not”. At this point I said loudly- ok so what are my options can you rebook us on another flight tomorrow (this was the last flight out from my understanding). The agent said “sorry no call Air Canada”. As my parents were staying at my house that night my husband was texting them- I told the gate agent that my parents were on-board and if could give them a key to our house and explained my mom’s medical situation. Agent said sorry no! This was at approx 7:16pm (my husband discreetly took photos).



Security now said look we have to escort you out of the terminal (it’s protocol when your denied boarding). As we walked away we figured we had no choice but to rent a car and drive ($300 for an economy car). They showed us where the car rental desks were and even kindly helped us find a rental that could go one way to Toronto. This was now 7:30pm.

Once we got on the road I called Air Canada. Since the drive home took us near YUL I asked to be rebooked from YUL that night. The agent said that all flights were full and to fill out a claim form online to seek reimbursement. I hung up and as we neared Montreal and were totally not up to the drive ahead called AC back to ask if we could rebooked from either YUL or YOW on the first flight out Monday morning (and we would just get a hotel). The agent put me on hold and said that their ticketing department could not rebook us and it would be $595 per person for the one way flights we wanted as our tickets were basic fare. So again we hung up and drove home (we arrived home at 3:45am). My parents were really upset and worried that we had to drive through the night and we had to frantically make arrangements for them to get a key for our house etc.

AC refuses to take responsibility for our ordeal given that it’s clear there’s something more to the story and I speculate our dog was being used as a scapegoat. I have since collected the following information as I plan to pursue AC:
  • my veterinarian also has given a written statement that this carrier is appropriate to give my dog adequate space to sit up and move around.
  • The manufacturer (Sherpa) has been wonderful and although they can’t compensate us has also given a written statement pointing out why the dog should not of been denied boarding (They asked I provide photos with my dog next to ruler and some other documents). I attached their email.
  • I have spoken with head of security at YQB and also have written documentation. They claim AC requested their assistance and wanted us removed. As we are calm and rational I wanted to ensure that there was no fabrication that we were being rude/yelling. The document confirms this and also that being denied boarding would not result in an escort out of the terminal by security:
  • I have also collected information from the American Kennel Club on the guidelines on how to select a carrier: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/li...t-dog-carrier/
  • As my dog is registered with the CKC (and again I had paperwork on hand to prove this). His height and weight are within the breed standard (he is just over 10 inches- my carrier is 10.5 inches high).
  • AC’s policy is that the carrier can not exceed 11inches high. So based on the above I was denied on the basis of another 0.5 inch (there was no measurements taken and the only language used was for my denial was “inhumane”)
  • AC’s policy allows dogs up to 22lbs in the cabin but clearly they can’t be taller then 11 inches (which makes no sense a square peg round hole argument?). My Shih Tzu among only a few other breeds are safely within this guideline. A 22lb small(er) dog then mine would have hard time under a seat for reasons other then their height!
  • IATA sets general guidelines for safe transport of pet’s which are altered based on airline preferences/aircraft configuration and based on destination. I could not find info on IATA’s website relating to soft sided carriers. I have also been in touch with them and actually confirmed that the my carrier is well recognized by airlines and popular among travellers (gate agent said he had never seen a bag like mine).
  • Our flight was supposed to leave at 19:15 and given the photos I have passengers were still boarding at 19:16. The aircraft doors closed around 19:30 (15 minutes past scheduled departure). The incoming flight landed only 6 minutes late. There were other passengers who sat in our seats next to my family.
I am still mind blown at this whole ordeal I speculate either the agent really has no idea or AC just lacks a uniform understanding of their policy. I was told from the first agent I spoke to at AC that the flight went out full- the second agent said it did not.

I want at minimum the cost of our tickets / pet fee refunded as well as the costs incurred during our 8 hour drive home. I am still trying to figure out if this falls under a denied boarding policy OR under refusal to transport.

Any thoughts or tips would be appreciated as to any other speculation why we would be offloaded (passenger with allergies on board? Too many pets on board?)

I do plan to pursue them in small claims as AC has said they are refunding our tickets ONLY as a goodwill gesture and ultimately I did not follow their policy.

Edit*** photo of my dog at the time of the incident (in his long fur coat VS short coat)


Video of the dog in his carrier turning around!















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Last edited by Blondie85; Jun 13, 19 at 5:10 pm
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:10 pm
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Wow a bad experience with YQB staff?

I would never expect that

I'm sorry you went through this. Try writing to customer relations. If that fails, I'd go with small claims.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:12 pm
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@Blondie85

As this is your first post, welcome to FT.

I'm sorry to hear this happened to you. I don't have any experience regarding traveling with pets, so I'll defer to others here.

It's clear you you have performed your due diligence (before and after the "incident"), but that's just my opinion. Others might attack you and say you don't know what you're doing (because this is FT).

I don't mean to sound trite or sarcastic at all, but this might actually be something "CBC-able", if you will.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:13 pm
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Originally Posted by Blondie85 View Post
I do plan to pursue them in small claims as AC has said they are refunding our tickets ONLY as a goodwill gesture and ultimately I did not follow their policy.
For some unknown reasons, it seems that AC responds better with a true legal threat. So you should skip all the negotiations and go straight to the Court.

Also - you should push for IDB compensation as well.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:25 pm
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Media?
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:34 pm
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Originally Posted by canadiancow View Post
Wow a bad experience with YQB staff?

I would never expect that

I'm sorry you went through this. Try writing to customer relations. If that fails, I'd go with small claims.
Ok so it’s not just me. I’ve had some lukewarm interactions at YUL but this was my first time in YQB.

The agent who checked us in was a little over the top with my mother. If you saw my Mom you probably wouldn’t know she’s sick (she wears a wig) and like me she has very olive complexion. She kept looking her up and down and then finally asked her “your the sick one? how do you feel today can you fly without a problem?”. I just shook my head and fished out the letter from the oncologist which she just glanced out and handed back to us.

Her english wasnt amazing- I tried to give the benefit of the doubt but I was taken back. I don’t know what they can or cannot see on there side. Cancer isn’t what you say on tv (my mother still drives and works reduced hours to keep herself busy).

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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:37 pm
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Originally Posted by yyznomad View Post
@Blondie85

As this is your first post, welcome to FT.

I'm sorry to hear this happened to you. I don't have any experience regarding traveling with pets, so I'll defer to others here.

It's clear you you have performed your due diligence (before and after the "incident"), but that's just my opinion. Others might attack you and say you don't know what you're doing (because this is FT).

I don't mean to sound trite or sarcastic at all, but this might actually be something "CBC-able", if you will.
thank you!

I was actually contacted by 2 media outlets who have expressed interest. I’m a bit camera shy and totally not looking for attention just want an explanation and to be compensated fairly.

& yes I as a lurker I know the dogs don’t belong in the cabin posts are coming.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:45 pm
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My $0.02, the flight was probably oversold and the GA saw an easy way to not have to deal with it by bullying two of the passengers. That's why the husband was also IDB'd very early on despite having nothing to do with the pet. Then he calls security to get the passenger out of his hair and all the other AC agents fall in line and refuse any rebooking assistance. "Oh just another passenger in tears from coworker Bob's anger issues. Anyone want to go for coffee?"

Cruel, borderline sociopathic behaviour, but sadly typical for AC. Agree with other posts, your case is well-documented - go directly to court.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Blondie85 View Post
I was actually contacted by 2 media outlets who have expressed interest. I’m a bit camera shy and totally not looking for attention just want an explanation and to be compensated fairly.
Is one of them CBC?
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Old Apr 13, 19, 1:57 pm
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Originally Posted by eigenvector View Post
My $0.02, the flight was probably oversold and the GA saw an easy way to not have to deal with it by bullying two of the passengers. That's why the husband was also IDB'd very early on despite having nothing to do with the pet. Then he calls security to get the passenger out of his hair and all the other AC agents fall in line and refuse any rebooking assistance. "Oh just another passenger in tears from coworker Bob's anger issues. Anyone want to go for coffee?"

Cruel, borderline sociopathic behaviour, but sadly typical for AC. Agree with other posts, your case is well-documented - go directly to court.
Is there a good timeline I should wait before filing? My husband has been advised we should wait 30 days from the flight and continue in writing / record phone calls to further we gave them time to offer a resolution.

We were once overbooked many years ago FLL-YYZ (well my husband was) and I wasn’t. I don’t know if anything has changed but when we told them that we were flying together (despite seperate PNRs) at first they said I had no choice but to get on the flight without him or I forfeit. After some reasoning they allowed me to stay behind as well even though they didn’t need my seat. They never mentioned this to my husband or gave him any option? I was worried that they would of remarked that he was no show or something internally.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 2:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Blondie85 View Post


Is there a good timeline I should wait before filing? My husband has been advised we should wait 30 days from the flight and continue in writing / record phone calls to further we gave them time to offer a resolution.


I'm assuming this was legal advice?

Originally Posted by Blondie85 View Post
We were once overbooked many years ago FLL-YYZ (well my husband was) and I wasn’t. I don’t know if anything has changed but when we told them that we were flying together (despite seperate PNRs) at first they said I had no choice but to get on the flight without him or I forfeit. After some reasoning they allowed me to stay behind as well even though they didn’t need my seat. They never mentioned this to my husband or gave him any option? I was worried that they would of remarked that he was no show or something internally.
Originally Posted by Blondie85 View Post
You might want to save this one for a new/other thread.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 2:06 pm
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Sorry this happened to you, OP. Since you can’t post links yet, I will post the link to the Sherpa carriers for you. Original Deluxe | Sherpa Pet

Just one small point - AC is not one of Sherpa’s “Guaranteed On Board” airlines. Not that it makes a difference in your case but just as a reference point. The medium Sherpa is only guaranteed on AA and UA.

The Sherpa™ Medium Original Deluxe™ Carrier is Guaranteed on Board® on the below airlines.
American Airlines United Airlines
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Old Apr 13, 19, 2:13 pm
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As for "waiting" before court, you should try the compensation route first.

Courts are not impressed with being used as a first resort. There is a published complaint process. That said, courts are also not generally impressed with egregious and glacial complaints processes.
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Old Apr 13, 19, 2:30 pm
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Blondie85 has run up against the 5-posts-in-the-first-24hrs rule. She PM’d me this link (which is a bit different than the info on Sherpa’s website) AirCanada | Guaranteed On Board where she filled in her info and she writes “I attached the electronic confirmation of my form (they email you one to print).”
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Old Apr 13, 19, 2:35 pm
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Originally Posted by RangerNS View Post
As for "waiting" before court, you should try the compensation route first.

Courts are not impressed with being used as a first resort. There is a published complaint process. That said, courts are also not generally impressed with egregious and glacial complaints processes.
I believe that OP has tried this route and AC gave OP the goodwill gesture refund.
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