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Sunday 18 February 2024

Air Canada says its chatbot has a mind of its own

Air Canada, whose baggage handling and customer service failings have been canvassed regularly (GoTR passim, ad nauseam), are at it again.

The airline made a laughing stock of itself in a small claims court in Vancouver during the week.

In what is believed to be a first of its kind ruling, Air Canada was ordered to pay compensation to a customer after its chatbot supplied bogus information, CBC reported.

The airline had admitted wrong information was given to customer Jake Moffatt but Air Canada then tried to brush it off, claiming, hilariously, that the bot was responsible for its own words and actions.

The airline tried to argue the bot was a 'separate legal entity' and it should not be liable for its mistakes.

The chatbot advised Moffatt he could claim a bereavement fare refund within 90 days of the date the ticket was issued.

Air Canada later denied the refund request, saying bereavement rate differences cannot be refunded for completed travel, which is listed on the bereavement section of the Air Canada website.

The chatbot had used "misleading words" Air Canada admitted.

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

Air Canada was ordered to pay Moffatt the difference in the fare he paid and the bereavement fare, as well as interest and legal fees.

"This [was] a remarkable submission," Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) member Christopher Rivers wrote.

"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."

Moffatt provided the CRT with a screenshot of the chatbot's words: "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."

Based on that assurance, Moffatt had booked full-fare tickets to and from Toronto to attend their grandmother's funeral.

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