Airline Must Pay for Chatbot's Bad Bereavement Fare Advice

Air Canada loses case after online tool steered customer wrong
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2024 3:05 PM CST
Airline Says It's Not Responsible for Bad Advice From Its Chatbot
An Air Canada aircraft rolls over the highway to its parking position after landing at the airport in Frankfurt on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

An Air Canada representative admitted the airline's chatbot provided "misleading words" to a customer trying to book a bereavement fare. But you can't blame the airline for that, Air Canada argued in a lawsuit, calling the chatbot "a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions." That threw the deciding member of Canada's Civil Resolution Tribunal for a loop, CBC reports. "This is a remarkable submission," Christopher Rivers said. When he recovered, Rivers ordered Air Canada to pay the customer $812—the difference between the bereavement rates and $1,630.36 actually paid for full-price tickets for the Vancouver-Toronto round trip after Jake Moffatt's grandmother died.

Moffatt had gone to the Air Canada website in 2022 and asked the support chatbot about bereavement fares, per Quartz, which assured him the airline offers them. "If you need to travel immediately or have already traveled and would like to submit your ticket for a reduced bereavement rate," Moffatt was informed, "kindly do so within 90 days of the date your ticket was issued by completing our Ticket Refund Application form." There was a link, which Moffatt did not click on, that contradicted that information, saying that customers can't apply for bereavement rates after they've completed their travel.

He also called the airline and spoke to a human, whose information he took as reassurance that he could collect a $326 refund per flight; Moffatt said the person didn't mention the retroactive prohibition. So he bought tickets. Although it interacts with customers, the chatbot is just part of the arline's website, Rivers wrote in finding last week for Moffatt. "It should be obvious to Air Canada that it is responsible for all the information on its website," he said. "It makes no difference whether the information comes from a static page or a chatbot." The decision can be found here. (More chatbot stories.)

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