Man Awarded $12,000 for Air Canada’s Failure to Serve Him 7-Up in French

Via Marginal Revolution, a man asked an Air Canada flight attendant for 7-UP in French and received Sprite, claimed his right to be fully served by Air Canada in French was denied, and he won a $12,000 judgment.

Here’s why he won.

In the latest case, the Thibodeaus initially complained of eight instances in 2009 in which they did not receive services in French at airports in Atlanta, Toronto and Ottawa and aboard three related Air Canada Jazz flights between Canada and the United States.

The Official Languages Act requires Air Canada to communicate and provide services in both official languages in the National Capital Region and elsewhere in Canada, “where there is significant demand for those services in the minority language and where it is warranted by the nature of the office or facility.”

For its part, Air Canada admitted to the court it is not always able to provide all services in French as required by the Act, but that breaches are occasional and do not reveal a systemic problem, as alleged by the Thibodeaus.

Air Canada actually admitted breaches of the law in four instances, such as:

No translation of an announcement made in English by the pilot concerning the arrival time and weather on flight AC8622 flying the Atlanta-Toronto route on Feb. 1, 2009: Air Canada acknowledges that the announcement should have been translated by the flight attendant (who was bilingual) because it was a flight on which there was significant demand for services in French.

Air Canada is actually trying to comply with rules requiring that they offer service in both English and French. It turns out that 47% of their flight attendants are bilingual (and an even greater percentage of call center agents).

Ultimately the man was awarded $1500 for each of 4 breaches plus expenses.

Back in 2000 he filed a similar lawsuit and won around $5000 (he had asked for ~ $500,000). He also sued Ottawa in 2007 for insufficient bilingual services on its buses.

It turns out the passenger speaks perfect English (see this interview). His insistence on the flight attendant speaking French to him somehow didn’t violate the flight attendant’s language rights.

I don’t speak French but somehow I’m tempted to insist on being served in French on Air Canada in the future. It could be more lucrative even than getting e-certs out of United.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I well remember seeing stop signs in Quebec with the t, o and p spraypainted to form “101” which is Quebec’s Loi 101 defining French as the only official language in Quebec. I realize the Official Languages Act is different, as the national law, but it touches on the same tension between English and French language speakers. I’m sympathetic to his cause for Francophones, even though he happens to be a fluent English speaker. Not only is it Canadian law, but there are many Canadian French speakers that unlike him aren’t fluent in English and need French announcements/service. I even had to use my rusty French once to translate announcements on a flight for someone from Quebec (although not on an Air Canada flight).

  2. I hope Quebec will separate soon and fall on their faces.
    Chinese is the second language and issues like the
    one stated above is a joke of the judicial system.

  3. Whilst I’m sympathetic to what the law is trying to achieve, I do believe that damages should be related to the damage caused. In the case of serving Sprite instead of 7UP, the damage is about 30c for depriving him of a can of soda.

    That said, fining the airline would be a different matter, but that’s not what seems to have happened.

  4. The other crazy thing is that AC is the only airline (indeed, the only private business, I think) subject to this requirement. The Official Languages Act essentially ensures that federal government services are available in both languages. When AC was privatized in the early 90s, one of the conditions was that it remain subject to the Act.

  5. So no one sues Gary, here is the headline of this blog post in French thanks to Google Translate:

    Via Marginal Revolution, un homme a demandé un préposé d’Air Canada pour les 7-UP en français et a reçu Sprite, a revendiqué son droit à être pleinement desservies par Air Canada en français a été refusée, et il a gagné un jugement 12000 $.

    O’I fell much better now. How about U?

  6. I live in Quebec. I’m kinda curious, whats the difference between 7-Up in french or english? How does language affect a product name? If I order a Pepsi. Its Pepsi in french and English last time I checked. Sounds a lot more like someone gaming the system — but hey, at least everyone can stop complaining about the aircanada devaluation. Where else can you get a 12,000$ soft drink reward? 🙂

  7. The great phony bilingual scam. Its all about jobs and money…

    The simple facts are as more francophone’s get hired for all government positions less and less English speakers are working for their own governments across the country. Don’t believe me; Go check the stats for yourself. Francophone’s are over-represented in all levels of government including hospitals, law, policing…etc. No fairness, no representation by population. They call it bilingualism, yet the term is never defined on purpose and believe me it doesn’t mean fluency in 2 languages in Canada, at least to the French it doesn’t. No political party will speak for the English speaking majority in this province and country. Practical bilingualism, where numbers warrant… is never defined on purpose. In Ontario it now means segregation. The French (they are actually metis, a mixed race, not french) are demanding French only facilities all over the province, not bilingual, French only. $ Bilingualism is really nothing more then a hiring quota for francophone’s and that is a fact…just ask yourself, why are francophone’s over-represented in all government jobs and how come more and more positions are being designated bilingual all the time? And just as important, how come they are NOT fluently bilingual? Some can barely speak English!

    Go learn our proud, real BNA and UEL history. These were the builders of our country since 1763, not this phony, revisionist lie, spin, nonsense, this bilingual, multicultural,2 founding nations, linguistic duality lie, spin, propaganda that we’ve been living with since Trudeau and Kebec (original spelling) forced this upon the nation. We’ve been part of the British Empire since 1763 and officially and English speaking country for over 200 years, again just the facts…We were never a bilingual country. This is one big expensive lie/fraud that’s been going on for over 5 decades now.

    Liberal, Tory same old story. No party, no politician has touched this issue since it was forced upon the nation. The public has complained for decades yet the scum bag politicians remain silent. They are not listening to the people. Liberal, Tory same old story.


    · So while Quebec bans the English language (bill 22, bill 178, bill 101…), wipes out its real BNA, UEL history, while ethnic language cleansing is going on in Quebec, the rest of the country is forced to fund whatever the French (metis) demand. This is going on in every province. Go check. See what’s really going on? What are they really up to? “First Quebec, then we take over the rest of the country, one step at a time…through bilingualism…” PT, “How to take over a country through bilingualism…” SD. How? First comes the right to communicate with gov’t in a minority language (ie French),then comes bilingualism, then comes the right to work in the language of choice(ie French), then comes a bilingual boss,(ie French) then comes a exclusively French department and on it goes until its all French. Its happening all over the country, Ontario, New Brunswick… Go check the stats for yourself.

    Time to end this phony, expensive hiring scam, this bilingual farce outside Kebec.

  8. Wait, so if I’m refused service in English in Montreal or Quebec City, can I sue and win damages for pain, humiliation and suffering, as well as loss of enjoyment of my vacation?

  9. Indeed, the flyer should be sued for “stupidity”, lol !!!
    Remember, he does speak perfect english… Like all of us
    travelers, just wanted some compensation $$$ which may or may not have merit. Has a history of suing companies.
    Should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI…

  10. I live in Québec, I am bilingual and proud of both. This had nothing to do with Québec, the guy is from Ontario.
    I think this issue was totally stupid, should not even have been given time. The title ”7 Up” is a trade mark name, can not be translated.. same as ”Big Mac”, it is the same in all languages..
    The guy is a trouble maker, should not have been awarded money for being so stupid.

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