Air Fares Too Good To Be True – Student Placed On Air Canada No Fly List

Air Canada is placing a woman on a “no-fly list” after discovering that she flew on tickets that were bought using a stolen credit card. The only way for her to get off that list: Repay over $18,600 for the return flights already flown between Toronto, Vancouver and Shanghai. All dollar figures in this article are Canadian.

Air Canada is rejecting mediation on the issue – which is now before the arbitration by the Canada Transportation Agency. Photo: Air Canada

A victim of fraud

According to CBC, Ann Qian came to Canada from Shanghai two years ago to train as a pastry chef. To book her travel, she made use of the popular Chinese app called WeChat. The app allowed her to find cheap flights to visit her sister in Vancouver, as well as her parents in China.

A seller on WeChat with the username “CaptainCooll” said that they had access to “Air Canada employee discount” tickets. Due to the plausibility of the story and an official-looking graphic promoting a “Hot Sale” with up to 50% off, Qian says that the she didn’t realize she was buying from a fraudster.

In reality, the scam artist was booking the airline seats on behalf of the client, but using a stolen credit card. The client would then pay the “discount fare”, which would go directly into the pocket of the fraudster.

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She became a repeat customer with “CaptainCooll”, flying three times with Air Canada over the span of a year and a half without any issues. Qian says her total payments to “CaptainCooll” amounted to $5,800 for the flights, including “deals” on business class seats.

Air Canada compares the fraudulent ticket purchase to “buying a TV in a bar” Photo: Air Canada

Air Canada’s punishment

In November 2018, when Qian was about to catch another flight from Toronto’s Pearson airport, Air Canada would not let her proceed. Boarding was denied and she was informed that she had been placed on Air Canada’s “no fly” list. The flight she was about to board, in addition to a pre-booked flight to Shanghai, had cost her $3,600. Qian discusses her situation with CBC:

“I’m so shocked why I’m on that list … so worried. It makes me very stressed…They say I’m a liar, but they just don’t want to know the details. They just [want] me to pay the money.”

According to TheCells Magazine, Qian confronted the fraudster on WeChat, demanding her money back. In response, the user blocked her and was never heard from again. Qian reportedly contacted Toronto police in April after failing to find the fraudster.

In a letter sent to Qian, Air Canada is insisting that she owes $18,683.66 for the fraudulent flights taken and gave her 45 days to make the payment. The November letter also accused Qian of “prohibited conduct” under the airline’s tariff rule covering “any unusual hazard or risk … to property.”

Air Canada’s response

Air Canada’s legal representative is rejecting Qian’s request to lift the travel ban. According to CBC, the airline’s legal representative says that the purchase was made “without a modicum of verification. With due respect, this is akin to buying a television set in a bar.”

Qian says she paid the fraudster $5,800 for the flights, which included business class seats. Photo: Air Canada

The two sides: a summary of the situation

On Qian’s side:

  • Three flights took place over the span of a year and half without issue. Why didn’t the airline catch the issue sooner?
  • Air Canada’s “buying a TV in a bar” analogy seems out of date in a world where peer to peer marketplaces (Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Gumtree) are becoming more prevalent, with millions of legitimate transactions happening everyday.
  • Furthermore, Air Canada’s other remark regarding “without a modicum of verification” seems extreme. Is it possible they fail to recognize the cultural legitimacy that WeChat has in Chinese society? The app is widely used by many large companies in China.

From Air Canada’s perspective:

  • Qian claims that the seller’s reason for the low price was that the tickets were through an employee discount. It is common practice that employee discount tickets aren’t for resale.
  • Also knowing that scams are fairly prevalent in China as well as on Chinese apps such as WeChat, Qian could have done more to verify the legitimacy of the seller.
  • Air Canada must draw a hard line and set a precedent with this situation to prevent a similar situation from happening again – placing the onus on the customer to do thorough research on “good deals”.

 

In China, WeChat can pay for meals at restaurants like Burger King. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Dispute resolution

Air Canada has rejected mediation. Instead, the dispute will be go to arbitration with the Canadian Transportation Agency – an official department of the Canadian federal government.

Air Canada will not comment specifically on the case. Photo: Air Canada

A request for comment was made by the CBC. However, an Air Canada spokesperson would not comment on the case. Instead the airline suggested that customers protect themselves by only buying tickets through an official travel agent or directly from the airline’s website and call centre.

What do you think about all this? Is Air Canada being unnecessarily harsh with this woman? Or should she have known better?

9 comments
  1. Air Canada are too hard on this person. Although the lady is obviously a bit naive.
    Maybe Air Canada should not just accept Dream Liner safety documentation from Boeing “without a modicum of verification”

  2. What were you expecting?

    Canadians; the sempiternus (frozen and rather boring) cousins to the north. Their airlines (and while at it, their aircraft industry in general… Bombardier anyone?) are not that good in doing “the right thing” and clearly not the brightest light bulbs in the chandelier while addressing customer service.

    Granted, the poor woman is a schmuck, but the airline needs a serious recalibration. What about using their resources to help the authorities find the criminal instead of flexing their muscle with a not-that-bright of a customer.

    Oh well, Air Canada management… probably just a group of misogynistic old pervs living in a too cold of a climate.

    Whatever the case, you the customer… don’t bother. Fly American (Airlines that is 🙂

    1. Ah – from the Excited States of America comes a comment that our aircraft industry is “not that good in doing the right thing?” Well Oscuro – we’d certainly like to be able to do as well as Boeing is doing however fear of imprisonment for corporate wrongdoing certainly plays heavily on our minds. Oh- and flying with an American carrier in an attempt to avoid being placed on a “no fly list” ? Surely Ocsuro you recall former Senator Ted Kennedy ( a rather well known figure even up here in Iglooland) being placed on a watch list by TSA for having a name similar to some other bad boy? Then again- the sempiternus gang up here still has some pretty fond memories of UNITED BREAKS GUITARS.
      Help the authorities find the criminal?
      In China?
      Seriously?

  3. Air Canada is one of the worst airlines on the face of the planet. Does the no fly list addition just apply to flights on their airline? If so, she should consider it a blessing in disguise. If it applies to all airlines, she is (1) a victim of fraud herself and (2) a victim being further victimized by the airline. I’d sue the hell out of them if I were her.

  4. Air Canada has a slippery slope here. Tickets are bought by third parties and used by the flying party in many transactions. The issue would be did Qian know without a doubt she was buying airline tickets purchased with a stolen credit card? This would be similar to a parent buying a ticket for a child…yet holding the child responsible for the validity of the transaction. There must be a clear line of fraudulent intent by the air traveler in order to hold the air traveler responsible.

    1. I agree – the fact is that SHE bought the tickets with her VALID line of credit (be it a credit card or some other form of electronic payment), so in reality SHE did NOT commit fraud at all – she purchased tickets in good faith from a person or group, who represented themselves as providers of discounted tickets.
      The fact that Air Canada did not detect the fraudulent purchase of tickets from THEM, is not her fault – it is Air Canadas fault.
      Air Canada MUST have records to show who the purchaser was – as it obviously would be on record – if they then find that the purchase was made with a stolen credit card, then the person committing the fraud is clearly that original purchaser – the woman has proof that she PAID in good faith for the tickets.

  5. Plain and simple. Air Canada sucks. It’s an airline that refuses ownership of their foul ups. You as the consumer are just at the mercy of their whims. I’d be happy to see Air Canada and Westjet face foreign competition with airline flying with no restrictions the increased competition would do 2 things. Force the other 2 to smarten up or plunge into bankruptcy. With Air Canada I’d bet on the latter.

  6. sounds like air canada alowed the transaction and got caught now doesnot want to eat the price if they knew after the 2nd flight why let the next sail go through
    they are just as guilty as the scamer

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