Via Marginal Revolution, a man asked an Air Canada flight attendant for 7-UP in French and received Sprite, claimed his right to be fully served by Air Canada in French was denied, and he won a $12,000 judgment.
Here’s why he won.
In the latest case, the Thibodeaus initially complained of eight instances in 2009 in which they did not receive services in French at airports in Atlanta, Toronto and Ottawa and aboard three related Air Canada Jazz flights between Canada and the United States.
The Official Languages Act requires Air Canada to communicate and provide services in both official languages in the National Capital Region and elsewhere in Canada, “where there is significant demand for those services in the minority language and where it is warranted by the nature of the office or facility.”
For its part, Air Canada admitted to the court it is not always able to provide all services in French as required by the Act, but that breaches are occasional and do not reveal a systemic problem, as alleged by the Thibodeaus.
Air Canada actually admitted breaches of the law in four instances, such as:
No translation of an announcement made in English by the pilot concerning the arrival time and weather on flight AC8622 flying the Atlanta-Toronto route on Feb. 1, 2009: Air Canada acknowledges that the announcement should have been translated by the flight attendant (who was bilingual) because it was a flight on which there was significant demand for services in French.
Air Canada is actually trying to comply with rules requiring that they offer service in both English and French. It turns out that 47% of their flight attendants are bilingual (and an even greater percentage of call center agents).
Ultimately the man was awarded $1500 for each of 4 breaches plus expenses.
Back in 2000 he filed a similar lawsuit and won around $5000 (he had asked for ~ $500,000). He also sued Ottawa in 2007 for insufficient bilingual services on its buses.
It turns out the passenger speaks perfect English (see this interview). His insistence on the flight attendant speaking French to him somehow didn’t violate the flight attendant’s language rights.
I don’t speak French but somehow I’m tempted to insist on being served in French on Air Canada in the future. It could be more lucrative even than getting e-certs out of United.