Canadian Airline Discriminates Against Passengers

A major Canadian airline is using COVID-19 to discriminate against passengers – but only certain ones – and nobody is doing anything about it.

The following story was shared with and has been published in its original form – the author wishes to remain anonymous. 

I must travel, and the most efficient way to get there is by flying.
I am medically mask-exempt, with a doctor’s note, and have been since the very early summer.

Recently, I booked a flight for myself and my caregiver on a Canadian airline.
Since booking, the airline has changed their policies to require that only those who are mask-exempt, provide the airline with extensive documentation about their medical condition, including the diagnosis (this is different from the medical exemption note that is required by Transport Canada), board first and exit last, limit movement on the airplane, and have a negative COVID test in their possession from at least 72 hours before boarding, both ways.
But only those who are mask-exempt – not everyone boarding the plane.
It’s important to note that the airline stipulates “Failure to comply with these requirements will be considered misconduct that may result in sanctions and/or denial of boarding.

When I spoke to the offending airline, I was advised to “Just make it easier on [myself] by filling out our medical form”.

Now, I don’t know what to do.
Should I pack, buy travel insurance, board my pet, take a cab to the airport, with my caregiver, who is also expecting to travel and has made personal arrangements, wears a mask, and expect that everything will go fine because I’m Canadian and my rights will be protected, where I will not be discriminated against for my medical condition?

Transport Canada has provided me with official word that “Canada does not require proof of a negative COVID test for boarding a flight at this time” [Dec 29, 2020], but I continue to be uncertain and scared to show up for my flight, and be turned away by the airline, leaving those counting on me, disappointed and destitute.

It is unconscionable to group people together in this generalized manner – those of us with legitimate mask-exemptions are being unfairly scrutinized and perceived to be dissidents (anti-maskers), which (possibly) explains the airline’s ignorant discriminatory practices, but does not make them legal.

To compare this situation, the discriminatory actions of the airline are like asking Muslims, post 9/11, to “have in their possession” an RCMP background check before they are allowed to board a plane.

So how does a private corporation get to discriminate so easily, and, seemingly, without outrage from the community?
Because everyone is afraid to talk about anything mask-related during these times, and this type of discrimination is rampant, but it can be easily justified by social media bravado, virtue signaling and spin.

But what about when it’s your child, injured in a different country, and you need to fly out to take care of them, and you’re unable to wear a mask for a long duration. Should you make it easier on yourself and just fill out their medical form? Should you forget about your privacy and your rights due to the blatant extortion tactics of the airline, essentially standing in the way of you getting to your hurt child because they think you’re an anti-masker and don’t want the bad press, so they ask you to jump through hoops – only you, not anyone else, because of your medical condition, and it severely affects your dignity and your mental health.

Do you really want to fly with them?

The airline will provide me with a credit if I cancel my trip at least 72 hours before take-off (also the cutoff for the COVID test results), unless I pay extra for the 24-hour cancellation option.
Since the terms of the contract (my flight), were changed, shouldn’t I be protected, as a consumer, to obtain a refund in the original method of payment?
That’s a point of contention these days, but since they have changed the terms to be discriminatory, anything other than a full refund would be unacceptable.

Contact your credit card company to enquire – if your flight is cancelled (for any reason, including discrimination at the gate), you may be entitled to a full refund up to three months after the cancellation.

You may, first, want to contact the airline to make them aware of the discrimination and how it affects you, and perhaps they will provide a solution.

In my emails with the airline, I have requested that they acknowledge their mistake, and that they immediately remove the additional obligations toward those who are mask-exempt, and educate all of their staff on proper protocol.
It has been days, and there has been no response from the airline. At the time of writing this, the airline has kept the discriminatory obligations posted on their website.

If you would like to find out more and/or lodge a complaint because you have been affected by this practice, contact:

Air Passenger Protection through the CTA (Canadian Transportation Authority)

To review the Ministerial Order from Transport Canada, click here: