Agency Decision Orders Swiss International Air Lines to Provide Compensation to Passengers

OTTAWA – June 18, 2013 – In a decision released today, the Canadian Transportation Agency ruled on the reasonableness and clarity of the international tariff applied by Swiss International Air Lines (Swiss), and if it was properly applied.

Today's decision is in response to seven complaints alleging that Swiss improperly cancelled on-line purchased tickets. Although the passengers were refunded for the tickets, the Agency has ordered the carrier to:

  • compensate one complainant for all expenses incurred as a result of the cancellation, by July 18, 2013.
  • allow all other complainants to be transported on the same conditions, at the same price as the ticket originally booked by them, by June 18, 2014.

The Agency is of the view that passengers should be able to fully understand their rights and the remedies available to them simply by reading the tariff, which is the contract between the carrier and the passenger.

The applicable tariff states that Swiss reserves the right to cancel reservations and/or tickets with an erroneously quoted fare by reason of a technical failure prior to it being detected and corrected, and to void the purchased ticket and refund the amount paid by the customer and/or offer the customer the ticket at a published fare that should have been available at the time of booking.

In this case, the Agency concluded that the tariff rule did not clearly set out Swiss’s policy with respect to the cancellation of tickets with erroneously quoted fares. Furthermore, Swiss did not properly apply its terms and conditions of carriage governing the cancellation of tickets as set out in its tariff.

On a preliminary basis, the Agency also found the tariff rule to be unjust and unreasonable as it was disadvantageous to consumers. The Agency is providing Swiss with the opportunity to demonstrate, by July 9, 2013, why the tariff rule in question should not be disallowed by the Agency.

A carrier meets its tariff obligation of clarity when, in the opinion of a reasonable person, the rights and obligations of both the carrier and passengers are stated in such a way as to exclude any reasonable doubt, ambiguity or uncertain meaning.

When considering the reasonableness of a carrier’s tariff, the Agency strikes a balance between the rights of passengers to be subject to reasonable terms and conditions of carriage and the carrier’s statutory, commercial and operational obligations.

The Agency has the authority to address the terms and conditions of carriage for domestic traffic on complaint and for international traffic on complaint and its own motion. In these contexts, the Agency has the power to suspend, disallow or substitute the terms and conditions of carriage.

About the Canadian Transportation Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency is an independent administrative body of the Government of Canada. The Canadian Transportation Agency has a number of mechanisms in place and is helping to protect consumers by:

  • resolving disputes between members of the public and air carriers through facilitation, mediation or formal adjudication;
  • working with air carriers and members of the public to ensure that they are aware of their rights and obligations;
  • ensuring air carrier tariffs are compliant with Canadian legislation and regulations; and
  • working with the industry to remove obstacles to transportation to the mobility of persons with disabilities by resolving individual complaints and by developing codes of practice, standards and regulations for accessible transportation.


For more information on dispute resolution for air travellers, consult the Backgrounder: Dispute Resolution for Air Travellers

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