Denied Boarding Due To COVID-19 – Can A Client Sue?

This week, TraveLaw Online’s Doug Crozier and Tim Law of Heifetz, Crozier, Law respond to a question from a reader asks whether their agency can be sued if they sell a ticket to a passenger who is then refused boarding because they are showing COVID-19 symptoms at the airport.

Q: If I sell a non-refundable air ticket to a client, and she is refused passage at the airport by the carrier due to COVID-19 symptoms, can she sue my agency?

A: She could sue you. But we don’t think she’d win. As long as you properly disclosed the name of the carrier that was to provide the flight, your company is merely an agent.

As a matter of good customer relations, however, you ought to consider alerting her (and all of your clients) to the possibility that she might be denied boarding if she exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, or refuses to answer COVID-19-related questions at the airport.

Under the federal Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport has a right to issue Orders that impact the way that civil aviation in this country is carried on.

Marc Garneau has done this, with the most recent version dating from June 17. The relevant passage says (with emphasis added to make clear the mandatory nature of the obligation that is imposed on the carrier):

  • In the event that the air operator observes that the air traveller has COVID-19 symptoms or that their response to any of the questions on the health check indicates a need to deny boarding (including refusal to answer the questions), the air operator will be required to refuse to board the person for travel for a period of 14 days or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the symptoms that the person is exhibiting are not related to the COVID-19 virus. The air operator is also required to deny boarding if the air traveller does not have a removable mask or face covering in their possession or if they refuse to comply with an instruction given by a crew member or gate agent with respect to wearing a face mask.

TraveLaw Online appears in Press Today every Wednesday and if you have a question, you can contact Crozier or Law at [email protected] or connect with Bob Mowat at Canadian Travel Press/Baxter Media at [email protected].

Heifetz, Crozier, Law is a Toronto law firm that has for years represented all aspects of the Canadian travel industry. The lawyers at HCL also maintain a non-travel practice, covering litigation, real estate, Wills, corporate/commercial matters, etc. To contact HCL, e-mail [email protected].