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84-year-old Vancouver Island woman asks Air Canada for ice pack, AHS hands her a bill for $450

An 84-year-old Air Canada passenger was shocked when she got a $450 bill from Alberta Health Services (AHS) after asking an attendant at the check-in desk for an icepack.

In January, Mary Marshall was boarding a flight form Calgary International Airport to return to her home in Sidney, B.C., on Vancouver Island.

“I had a large carry-on bag and I put it on the ramp, and I knew I twisted my back, said Marshall. “Fortunately, I had some over- the-counter relief for pain, which I took, and then I knew that a bag of ice or heat would help. That’s normally my remedy.”

Marshall had experienced similar back issues in the past, and asked the Air Canada agent if she could get an ice pack.  

To her shock and surprise, the agent’s call for medical assistance resulted in a paramedic arriving prompting a $450 bill, equivalent to ambulance service charges.

The bill from Alberta Health Services

“I kept saying no, I don’t need anything but an ice pack, please. That’s all I need. I know how to deal with this; I’ve had it before,” said Marshall.

Faced with paying the $450 bill for a service she did not request, Marshall contacted Air Canada.

The company’s initial response acknowledged that the incident “did not meet the airline’s service expectations.”

 Air Canada offered her a flight credit, they but said that the $450 charge was her responsibility.

The airline initially offered a flight credit but said Marshall was responsible for the $450 bill.

At that point Marshall reached out to CTV to tell her story.

CTV contacted Air Canada and shortly thereafter received an email stating: 
“Air Canada’s customer care team is reviewing what happened in this unfortunate case and will be in touch with the customer directly.”

Almost simultaneously, Marshall received an email from the airline offering to settle her claim.

“Your case has been reviewed again,” the email from Air Canada said, “and we would be more than happy to provide reimbursement of the bill in the amount of $450 CAD.”

Once they discovered CTV was intending to broadcast a story, Air Canada changed their minds and refunded Marshall $450

‘Lawyer on their left and a reporter on their right’

Airline passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says this case emphasizes the importance of passengers documenting every interaction with an airline, and speaking up when they feel wronged.

“I always recommend passengers to document everything that happens around them, to record their interactions with the airlines to keep photos, audio recordings, video recordings, receipts, letters, emails, everything, as if it was a multimillion-dollar trial, or maybe even as a murder trial, even though it is just a simple passenger dispute,” said Lukacs.

“The reality is that passengers need to have a lawyer on their left, and a reporter on their right to ensure that the airline treats them well,” he added.

Marshall is now satisfied with Air Canada’s response, but says it should never have taken calls to CTV for the company to act.

“I think a lot of times we (who are) alone, and maybe seniors — and women particularly — get left in the cracks, and they’re not heard,” said Marshall.

“I just think that other people who run across a situation like this should be able to speak out and tell their story and let it be heard,” she added. “And not be discriminated against or they need to be listened to.”

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