Air Canada's chatbot gave a traveler wrong airfare information. The traveler sued when the airline refused to give a refund

Deborah Yao, Editor

February 20, 2024

2 Min Read
Photo of an Air Canada plane
Air Canada

At a Glance

  • A Canadian traveler received wrong information about bereavement fares from Air Canada's chatbot.
  • Air Canada would not give him a refund, so he sued, and won.

A Canadian small claims tribunal has ordered Air Canada to refund a traveler’s airfare as a result of its chatbot’s hallucinations.

Last November, Jake Moffatt purchased tickets from Vancouver to Toronto after his grandmother’s death. He researched bereavement policies on Air Canada’s website and was told by its chatbot that he can apply to get the discounted bereavement airfare within 90 days.

After his return, Moffatt applied to get the discount only to be told that he cannot ask retroactively for the discounted fare. Air Canada instead offered him a $200 coupon for his next flight.

Moffatt filed a case with the Civil Resolution Tribunal to get his money back.

The airline's defense was to say “it cannot be held liable for the information provided by the chatbot,” according to the tribunal’s ruling, which came down on Feb. 14. Moreover, Air Canada said the chatbot provided a link to the refund page of the website that correctly states the bereavement fare policy.

But this means that Air Canada “suggests the chatbot is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions,” wrote Tribunal member Christopher C. Rivers in his ruling.

“This is a remarkable submission,” Rivers continued. “While a chatbot has an interactive component, it is still just a part of Air Canada’s website. It should be obvious to Air Canada that it is responsible for all the information on its website. It makes no difference whether the information comes from a static page or a chatbot.”

Also, “there is no reason why Mr. Moffatt should know that one section of Air Canada’s webpage is accurate, and another is not.”

Air Canada was told to pay Moffatt $812.02, comprising his refund, interest and tribunal fees.

Chatbot to make customers happier

Air Canada’s chatbot went into operation last summer. It handled questions about flight delays, cancellations or other simple tasks.

In an interview with Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper last year, Air Canada CIO Mel Crocker said the airline’s investment in AI chatbots was “much higher” than paying human workers to handle simple queries. But he expects the cost to come down over time.

However, Crocker said the real benefit is that “it fundamentally creates a better customer experience. And happier customers means they are traveling more with Air Canada.”

Read more about:

ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Deborah Yao

Editor

Deborah Yao runs the day-to-day operations of AI Business. She is a Stanford grad who has worked at Amazon, Wharton School and Associated Press.

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