Air Canada says passengers on a flight that turned back to Vancouver when it was already halfway to Hawaii received a discount for future travel, not just a free meal.

Air Canada Flight AC535 left Vancouver just after 9 a.m. on Monday and was about 50 per cent of the way to its destination on the island of Maui when the pilot headed back to Canada due to a “a hydraulic indication.”

An Air Canada spokesperson told CTV News that the decision to return the Boeing 737 to Vancouver was “for maintenance reasons only” and that it was “not an emergency.”

Passenger Rahuo Amelkarn told CTV Vancouver that he was annoyed about “how on Christmas Eve, we had to turn back ... and waste our entire day.”

Another customer, who did not give her name, said sarcastically that when she was handed a $10 voucher, she thought, “thanks a lot, it totally makes up for it.”

Passenger Oliver Eger said the ordeal was a “bit irritating” but added “it’s not all bad -- at least we didn’t die.”

A spokesperson from Air Canada told in an email that “passengers were given discount for future travel, free meals on board and there was also a special buffet meal at the gate while they were waiting to board the aircraft.”

Dr. Gabor Lukacs, the founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights, told that passengers on the flight could be eligible for damages worth thousands of dollars, in accordance with Canada’s Carriage By Air Act.

“Passengers still have to prove they’ve suffered losses, but they are liable for up to $8,700,” he said.

Damages would include any extra costs that a passenger incurred due to the delay, like rebooking a hotel or rental car and any meals.

Lukacs said passengers should send a letter to the airline citing the Carriage By Air Act and listing the costs of the delay. If this doesn’t work, the matter can be taken up in small claims court.

These benefits for passengers might not be available in the near future as proposed regulations would eliminate any potential compensation for passengers who’ve been delayed due to a mechanical issue.

The regulations are expected to come into effect July 1.

The passengers were expected to leave Vancouver on a new Maui-bound flight at 7:30 p.m. PST, putting them in Hawaii about 15 hours after the original flight left.

--- has updated this story on Dec. 26 after receiving a statement from Air Canada.