Couple shocked to find bag donated to charity by Air Canada. But was that legal?

After tracking their lost luggage for four months with an AirTag, one Ontario couple was shocked to learn that Air Canada had donated their suitcase to a charity. But it may not have been legal.

Video by Shibani Gokhale

Video Transcript

- Imagine losing your luggage on a flight and then being told that it's been donated to a charity. Could that even be legal? That's exactly the dilemma a couple from Ontario is facing right now.

Nakita Rees and Thomas Wilson travelled to Europe for their honeymoon late last year. But when they returned home with Air Canada, one of their three bags didn't make it back to Toronto. But thanks to an AirTag that was located inside, the couple was able to track the missing back to Montreal from where it moved to a Etobicoke and remained there for three months.

In the meantime, Air Canada compensated them for a quarter of the value of their bag and failed to act on the couple's request to return the bag from the tracked location. Instead, the bag was donated to charity. But that may not have been exactly legal. International Air transport Association's policy dictates that customers whose bags cannot be located after 21 days are eligible for compensation. Air Canada said that, in addition to that bags, whose ownership cannot be determined after 90 days are disposed off in accordance with their company policy.

But president of Air Passenger Rights, Gábor Lukács said that a company policy cannot trump travelers' legal ownership of bags. They made a contract to transport the baggage, and that contract includes the obligation to hand you back the baggage unless they can somehow show that you abandoned it, Lukács said.

In fact, Marcus Bornfreund, a criminal defense lawyer based in Toronto, said that not only could this be a violation of contract law, but it could also amount to a criminal offense. Not returning missing baggage that can be located could be considered theft or unlawful possession of another person's property. WestJet and Air Transat confirmed that they also have similar 90 days baggage disposal policies.

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said that airlines should be doing more and need to change with the times and emerging technology. He also said that the government plans to overhaul the airline passenger Bill of Rights in response to travelers complaints. Canadians have been calling airline regulations inadequate since they were introduced in 2017, but it seems that the government might finally be taking action this year. So how do you feel about airline baggage policies in Canada?