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I recently came across a story about a Canadian man suing Air Canada because its chatbot had given him incorrect information. He acted on the incorrect information (again, provided by Air Canada itself!) and was suing because he later found out that it was false.

I first saw this story over at Ars Technica, but it’s also been covered at One Mile at a Time, The Points Pundit, Live and Let’s Fly and others.

Air Canada Customer Asks About Bereavement Policy

Jake Moffatt’s grandmother passed away, and on the same day, he went to Air Canada’s website to find out about their bereavement fares. He was trying to book a flight from Vancouver to Toronto for his grandmother’s funeral and other arrangements. Many airlines have special bereavement fares as a service for people who have to book flights on short notice due to a death in the family.

Air Canada’s Chatbot Responds

The chatbot on Air Canada’s website said that

If you need to travel immediately or have already travelled 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.

He took a screenshot of the advice (smart!), booked his ticket and proceeded to take care of his grandmother’s estate. Afterwards, when he went to get the refund promised by the chatbot, his refund request was denied! Air Canada pointed to a different part of their website that states that the airline will not provide refunds for bereavement travel after the flight is booked.

Then… The Lawsuit

Moffatt sued, saying that he shouldn’t be held responsible for relying on information provided by Air Canada’s own chatbot

Air Canada said

  • Because the chatbot response elsewhere linked to a page with the actual bereavement travel policy, he should have known better
  • Its own chatbot is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions (huh?!?)

They promised to update the chatbot and give him a $200 voucher for future travel

In a shocking outcome of sanity, the Canadian tribunal disagreed with Air Canada, awarding Moffatt a partial refund of $650.88 in Canadian dollars, plus interest and tribunal fees.

Air Canada seems to have removed the chatbot from its website at this time.

The Bottom Line

An Air Canada chatbot gave incorrect information about its bereavement policy to an aspiring customer. Then, when the customer relied on that information, they backpedaled and refused to honor his refund request. After a lawsuit, they lost and had to pay a small sum that was almost certainly less than the cost of the lawyers they used to defend their case.

What do you make of this Air Canada chatbot situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below

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