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Air Canada chatbot promises discount that the airline is forced to uphold

Air Canada has to pay compensation. (Screenshot: Air Canada)
Air Canada has to pay compensation. (Screenshot: Air Canada)
In Canada, an airline chatbot offered a customer a discount on its 'bereavement travel' fare, a special fare offered to "customers who need to travel because of the imminent death or death of an immediate family member". But when the passenger attempted to redeem the bot's offer, Air Canada stood in the way - wrongly.

Air Canada's chatbot offered Canadian Jake M., who made a return trip from Vancouver to Toronto after the death of a family member in 2022, a retroactive discount on a bereavement fare. But as it turned out, the offer did not actually correspond to Air Canada's official policy and so the airline refused to honor the fare, even though it admitted that the chatbot had made a mistake. A recent ruling by the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) declared Air Canada to be in the wrong and ordered the airline to refund the amount to which Jake M. was originally entitled.

A bereavement fare is a special discounted fare offered by some airlines in the event that customers need to travel on short notice to attend a funeral, for example. However, the offer has become rare and only applies in specific circumstances, such as a death in the immediate family. Air Canada is one of the few airlines that still offers such a fare, which can only be offered if certain conditions are met. In the event of a death, Air Canada must be informed before the booking is made. In the case of Jake M., however, the chatbot stated the following, of which Jake M. made a screenshot:

"If you need to travel immediately or have already traveled and would like to submit your ticket for a reduced bereavement rate, kindly do so within 90 days of the date your ticket was issued by completing our Ticket Refund Application form."

In the ensuing legal dispute, the airline argued that it could not be held liable for statements made by staff and chatbots, and that the chatbot itself is a "separate legal entity responsible for its own actions". This baffled the CRT, which viewed the argument as illogical and ruled the chatbot to be an extension of the information provided by Air Canada's website. Tribunal member Christopher R. stated:

"It should be obvious to Air Canada that it is responsible for all the information on its website. It makes no difference whether the information comes from a static page or a chatbot."

The CRT also added that Air Canada neglected to ensure that its chatbot was accurate. In the end, Jake M. was largely found to be in the right by the CRT and Air Canada was ordered to pay Jake M. more than C$800, corresponding to the refund that he was initially eligible for. 


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2024 02 > Air Canada chatbot promises discount that the airline is forced to uphold
Andreas Sebayang, 2024-02-18 (Update: 2024-02-18)