Flair Airlines 24-hour flight delay strands passengers in Winnipeg
WINNIPEG -- A more than 24-hour delay of a flight to Toronto that originated in Abbotsford, B.C., left some passengers stranded in Winnipeg without answers.
The Flair Airlines flight was supposed to leave Winnipeg at 1:40 p.m. Sunday and reach Toronto by early evening. According to an update from Flair, its departure was pushed back to Monday at 2 p.m., and the delay was caused by malfunctioning interior ceiling lights the airline initially expected it would be able to fix within an hour.
One passenger who boarded in Calgary told CTV News after being told of the full extent of the delay and being given little information or assistance for more than 12 hours, he opted to book a flight with another airline, but still ended up not reaching Toronto until late enough Monday morning to make him late for his first day at a new job.
“There was a delay for one hour. And then they said it will be, like, one hour. Then they changed it to 4:30,” said Vikash Pandey.
Pandey said at around 7:30 p.m., he was told the flight wouldn’t leave until 11:30 p.m. He said he asked to be booked on another flight, but wasn’t given the option.
“And they refused to give anything, a meal voucher or anything. And they kept saying, "We don’t know, we don’t know.”
Flair Airlines told CTV News it first made vouchers available at 6:05 p.m. when they first told passengers of the anticipated 11:30 p.m. departure time. It also it provides passengers with vouchers after two-hour delays, then again after four hours and another four hours, and all three vouchers were provided at once.
The Canadian Air Transportation Agency said its regulations do not specify at what points food and drink should be provided except to say the airlines are required to give reasonable amounts, and the time of day the delay takes place should be taken into account -- for example if it extends over a typical meal time.
Pandey said he was also directed to a customer care number that was closed by 8 p.m., and couldn’t find assistance at any gates the flight was moved to.
He said Flair staff appeared at a gate at around 9 or 10 p.m., and distributed meal coupons for passengers. But information was still out of his grasp.
“The crew didn’t have any idea what was going on,” he said.
Then, at around 2 a.m., he was told there was good news and bad news.
“Good news was they have news, bad news was they weren’t going until tomorrow.”
Pandey said an email informed him the flight would leave around 8 a.m.
“At that point, I lost it,” he said, explaining that it was then he decided to book a flight with Air Canada, which didn’t take off until 7 a.m.
Jim Scott, president and CEO of Flair, said the reason people weren’t told how long things would take from the outset is because the airline didn’t anticipate how long a repair would take.
“By the wee hours in the morning, it became apparent that the aircraft couldn’t be fixed, and that it would need to be ferried back to Calgary by an avionics team,” he told CTV News.
Scott said the decision was made to charter another plane in order to get passengers to Toronto.
THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF THE DELAY
A woman CTV News spoke with is worried the flight delay could have an impact on her son’s military career.
“I’m really upset by all of this,” said Lacey Warrington, whose 18-year-old son was made late for his deadline to return to his base in Meaford, Ont., as he was “supposed to check in by midnight.”
Passengers flying other flights with Flair were also affected by delays.
Danica Derksen told CTV News she was supposed to fly to Calgary Sunday night at 8:30 p.m.. Instead, she’s missed classes.
“I’m at St. Mary’s University in Calgary for education,” she said.
Derksen later emailed CTV News an update, saying Flair rescheduled her flight for Jan. 9 because the flight for Monday night was full. She also opted to fly with another airline.
“I’m going to Calgary, me,” said Brent Bear. “Gotta work tonight, I was supposed to be in camp this morning.”
Patti Sommer said the delay was especially difficult because she is travelling with two broken arms.
She said she would never fly with Flair again.
“I’m very frustrated and very annoyed. I’m inconvenienced. I am now probably going to go down to West Jet to see if I can get a flight to Calgary this afternoon,” she said, adding that she is travelling to see her mom, who has health issues.
Pandey said he witnessed passengers taking out frustration on staff.
“I don’t blame the people on the front desk,” he said. “They were not updated.”
He said he wasn’t sure what he’d like for compensation.
“I want them to be more responsible. Be more humble and more responsible and at least treat people with the respect to let them know what’s happening,” he said.
THE RULES FOR COMPENSATION
The Canadian Air Transportation Agency said it’s mandated to provide consumer protection for passengers, who can file a complaint that may be dealt with through facilitation, mediation, or if that isn’t satisfactory, adjudication.
“If an airline has not adhered to its tariff the CTA may order it to do so and could possibly order it to reward personal expenses incurred by the complainants or take corrective measure,” it said.
An advocate for air passengers told CTV News regulations in Canada don’t go far enough to protect passengers.
“What we have is an airline bill of rights. It protects the airlines, not the passengers,” said Gabor Lukacs, founder of the advocacy organization Air Passenger Rights. He said if a delay caused by a legitimate maintenance issue happened in Europe, passengers would get monetary compensation, but Canadian legislation that went into effect in December doesn’t go that far.
He also said because Flair is considered a small airline, it is not required to re-book passengers on another carrier, as larger airlines like West Jet or Air Canada would.
Lukacs also said meal vouchers should be provided within two hours under Canadian regulations. He said if passengers aren’t satisfied with an airline’s response, he advises going through small claims court to seek damages, rather than the Canadian Transportion Agency.
“In our experience, they send passengers away without resolution. And if they issue a ruling, you cannot afterwards go to small claims court.”
PLANES CHARTERED FOR PASSENGERS
Scott told CTV News, Flair has seven aircraft in its fleet, as well as a relationship with other airlines to provide planes in the event an emergency backup is needed. However, he said in this case, the other airline didn’t have crew available Sunday night.
“And it wasn’t until this morning that they could find it,” he said, adding that the busy holiday travel season was a factor.
“In a week from now, this wouldn’t have really been a big issue,” Scott said.
“That’s why we really wanted to fix the airplane that night because we know that there’s not a lot of alternatives, and people are very stressed over the holiday season.”
Scott said passengers are entitled to be re-accommodated or refunded.
“We want to go the next step, we want to get them there. Every passenger will be written a letter of apology and will be given a discount code,” he said, adding passengers will be compensated on a case-by-case basis that will take the impact of the delay into account.
Read the full statement regarding the delay from Flair Airlines below:
Flair Airlines flight 134 landed in Winnipeg at 12:48 p.m. local time on Sunday January 5, 2020 en-route to Toronto.
Due to set of interior ceiling lights not working, the aircraft was deemed not serviceable and a maintenance team was dispatched to the aircraft to service this issue. It was initially thought to be simple fix and at 1:40 p.m. local time a flight delay was posted on the system and an email message was sent to all affected passengers. The plan was to move the passengers when the aircraft was fixed. At 3:05 p.m. and 4:51 p.m. local time updates were provided to the passengers. Due to the delay, all three food vouchers were provided to passengers at 6:05 pm local time with an updated departure time of 11:30 p.m. local time. A new flight crew was brought in to ensure the flight could be conducted that night. The first passenger received hotel rooms at 9 p.m. Any passengers requesting a hotel room obtained was provided a room. All bags were pulled off the aircraft and passenger received them upon request.
Based on the mounting delay, Flair Airlines canvassed other airlines that could operate the Winnipeg to Toronto flight; however, there was no spare charter capacity available at that time.
At 11:45 pm local time the passengers were informed that the flight would be 00:30 a.m. on January 6, 2020. At 00:40 a.m., the departure time was updated to 1:30 a.m. local time. At 2:50 a.m., when it was clear that the maintenance team could not fix the lighting issue that night and the flight was canceled, with a new departure time of 8 a.m. local time and any remaining passengers were provided hotel room.
To accommodate Flair Airlines’ passengers affected by this aircraft outage in Winnipeg, Flair Airlines has chartered two aircrafts from two other airlines to complete the flying today. The Winnipeg to Toronto passenger will be flown at 2 p.m. local time on Jan. 6, 2020.
Flair Airlines strived to get all passengers to their destination the night of January 5, 2020. We tried chartering other airlines and the maintenance team worked into the early hours in the morning. In the end, the flight was delayed 24 hours and Flair Airlines sincerely apologizes to our passenger for this delay. Flair Airlines first and foremost priority is ensuring the safety of our passengers.
-With a file from Touria Izri