Canada may insist on French speaker on flights after bizarre incident

Canada may bring in legislation demanding that all airlines have a French-speaking member of crew aboard – as a result of a bizarre case of a passenger being served the wrong lemonade on a flight.

Air Canada, sued when a passenger was served a Sprite instead of a 7Up

Air Canada, sued when a passenger was served a Sprite instead of a 7Up Image by InSapphoWeTrust / CC BY 2.0

Michael Thibodeau, who is described as a French language extremist took Air Canada to court on foot of being served a Sprite after he had asked an English-speaking air hostess for a 7Up.

French speaking passenger asked for a 7Up and got a sprite on Air Canada flight

French speaking passenger asked for a 7Up and got a sprite on Air Canada flight Image by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Although he is a fluent English speaker, he described the airline's employees as “malicious, oppressive and reprehensible” because they did not respond to his questions in French during his flight in 2009.

Stephane Dion, a Canadian MP, has now lodged a bill in parliament demanding that every flight to and from Canada has at least one French speaker on board.

Although Mr Thibodeau received £8,000 in damages as a result of his action five years ago, the ruling was later overturned on appeal.

However the MP said, in reference to the case, that it was a fundamental right in the country that all citizens should be able to order a 7UP in French and should be able to sue an airline if that wasn’t the situation.

The Daily Mirror reports that the public representative has called for the Official Languages Act - which ensures that both English and French have equal status – should be extended to cover all international flights serving the country.

When Mr Thibodeau took his case to the Canadian Supreme Court, the judges there ruled that the act did not allow this to happen. Instead, the court ordered the airline to apologise while ensuring the Languages Act would in future be respected.

In 2002, he filed a similar complaint against Ottawa's bus company when a driver said “hello” instead of “bonjour” to him.

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