The main strain affecting Canadian airlines this year as people started traveling again has been nothing compared to last week’s holiday season chaos.
Canceled flights, endless lines, mountains of lost baggage and passengers stranded for days seem to be the norm at most major airports across the country. Many are left wondering: With all the airports that have been through such pandemonium over the past year leading up to it, why wasn’t there more preventative planning?
Gabor Lukas is the president of Air Passenger Rights, a nonprofit group that helps educate and advocate for airline travelers. He says that what is happening now at airports like Vancouver, apart from bad weather, is poor organization on the part of the airlines.
“Obviously, with the current weather in British Columbia and Toronto, planes can’t take off and they can’t land, so that’s a safety issue,” he said. Yahoo Canada News.
It’s a completely different matter when people are stranded on the tarmac for 10 or 12 hours, that’s bad planning because the airline shouldn’t have boarded a flight that didn’t have a clear plan to deplane the plane if they couldn’t take off.Gabor Lukas, president of the nonprofit group Air Passenger Rights
While flights canceled due to weather conditions are reasonable, it becomes questionable when some airlines cancel their flights to certain destinations, while others continue to fly there.
“It’s not as if airlines have such capabilities that one airline will have to cancel and others won’t,” he says. “If it can’t, it is under the control of the carrier, not the weather.”
Lukacs says that if it becomes clear, based on the sound methodological information available, that there is no reasonable hope that flights will depart or land, then such flights should not be presented to the public as if they were still scheduled.
“This means that passengers will be at the airport, rather than in the comfort of their own home,” he says.
What you need to know as a passenger: Airlines must pay
Aside from tarmac delays, another big airline problem that Lukacs are seeing galore is the failure to rebook passengers. Under air passenger protection regulations, if a flight is canceled based on weather or other circumstances beyond the control of the carrier, the airline is required to give passengers the option to book on the next available flight. If they cannot find a flight on their own network, the airline has to purchase a ticket for the passenger on another airline, if one is available.
“I would expect both airlines (Air Canada and Westjet) to fight this ruling to some degree,” says Lukacs. “The final question is how will the government respond to this?”
By law, the airline can be fined up to $25,000 per passenger incident. But it remains to be seen if this will happen.
“Passenger rights are on the books, but they are not enforced and that is a particular concern,” he says.
While passengers can be compensated for lost baggage, it is against the law not to offer alternative transportation when there are options available.
Lukacs is not confident that the CTA will hold airlines accountable, because it “treats airlines as untouchable, as if they are above the law.” He adds that there is no real evidence that airports are doing anything wrong in the current holiday chaos. Even functions such as refueling are performed by subcontractors at the airport.
“Airlines love to point fingers at other players, but I don’t see any evidence of that happening here,” he says. “For late passengers, it seems to be the airport’s fault, but in fact, for the vast majority of these jobs, they fall on the airlines’ subcontractors, and therefore, the responsibility lies with the airline.”
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