Air Canada Faces Fine Over Soda Order


In Canada, there are two official languages: English and French. The government and certain private organizations are obliged to provide service in both languages, according to law. Air Canada, as a former Crown corporation, is subject to these language laws, with all passengers entitled to service in the language of their choice. So even if the customer is bilingual and the inability of the service staff to speak French does not impede the customer’s ability to order an in-flight refreshment, Air Canada is still in violation of the language laws.

This is exactly the premise that brought Michel and Lynda Thibodeau to court, suing Air Canada for $25,000 each in compensation plus $500,000 in “punitive damages” because there was no French language service available on their Air Canada Jazz flights in the spring of 2009.   Michel Thibodeau, who is fully bilingual, claimed that not only did no flight attendant speak French, they were also “arrogant,” and in one instance gave him a Sprite when he ordered a 7-Up.

This is not Thibodeau’s first run at Air Canada: He also sued them in 2000 for similar breaches. “If I take a flight and I’m not served in the language of my choice, and I don’t do anything about it, then my right is basically dead,” Mr Thibodeau stated.

Air Canada has admitted to occasions where French language service was not available on certain flights. Citing that Air Canada did, indeed, violate the rights of the Thibodeaus, the court awarded them $12,000 in compensation – the lower amount because the judge felt that Air Canada has tried to meet its language obligations and is neither “malicious nor oppressive.”  The judge did order Air Canada to quickly implement “a proper monitoring system and procedures to quickly identify, document and quantify potential violations of its language duties.”

The Thibodeaus are unlikely to stop their campaign of seeking out language violations. While they are certainly taking on the appearance of simply being thorns in the side of Air Canada, they do have a significant point. If a corporation is obliged to provide services in both official languages, they should do exactly that.

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Photo Credit: MPD01605 on Flickr.

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Just Me
Just Me4 years ago

Gimme a break!

Just Me
Just Me4 years ago

Gimme a break!

Natalie Rusu
Natalie Rusu4 years ago

Wow! Really he got Seven Up instead of Sprite..or the other way around?!?!?!?!?!?

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin4 years ago

Just looking for a mealticket, eh? Guess some people rather live on compensation money than actually get a life and contribute to the common good.

Sarah Solaban
Sarah Solaban4 years ago

The people doing the suing ARE spoiled brats.

Atudorquene E.
Atudorquene E.4 years ago

This is such a con-job. I've flown in Europe on Lufthansa, Olympic, and KLM, and on all of them English was the language used on the plane for service. If a customer happened to speak some other language, if the attendants could speak it they did, if not everything was done in English. I feel sorry for Air Canada. This suit is obviously just for greed. Air Canada should bar them from flying their airline in the future. They are just scam artists.

Lin Moy
Lin M4 years ago

Well many times I've got a Coke for Pepsi and it didn't matter so much. Mostly it happens when they don't carry the product you ask for. lighten up man.

Robert O.
Bob B.4 years ago

The guy that sued Air Canada over his 7-Up order has done this type of thing a few times before, and was given good amounts of money each time to settle the case.

Looks like he has figured out a way to scam money by abusing the law.

He should go to work on Wall Street, he would have lots of like minded pals.

Ligita M.
Ligita Mikelsons4 years ago

I've worked as a flight attendant for 32 years, and can't begin to count the "spoiled brats" I've encountered on my flights. I call them oxymorons; they walk and talk like adults, and throw hissy fits like 5-year old children. Workiing for an airline has become a thankless job. Not the "glamorous" life it once was. Ha! Far from it. And passengers don't make it any easier.

Time and time again, I've been reminded that it's "MY fault" when someone's "special" meal (be it Muslim, Hindu, vegetarian) has not been boarded. Well, let's see, I don't work in catering, which must be a logistial nightmare, given all the religious and dietary considerations these days. Interestingly, the same people will often accept a non-religious "regular" meal, if push comes to shove, if they are to eat at all. So much for religion and tradition.

As far as bilingualism is concerned, I was hired with another airline (Wardair) as were many of my colleagues (Canadian, Transair, Nordair), and was not required to be bilingual. Then, as most people know, we all eventually merged with Air Canada. All the new hires are, however, required to be bilingual. Additionally, we don't carry 7-Up, only Sprite. Not my decision. I'm just a working stiff, who's fed up with all the complaining. By the way, buying a ticket does not entitle anyone to verbally abuse the hired help. Safety first, service second. Point A to Point B safely, which the francophones ought to keep in mind, next time they board an aircraft. Th

Carole P.
Carole P.4 years ago

Sounds like The Thibodeaus are spoiled little children.