Air Transat delays raise passengers’ ire

Two Air Transat flights from Europe bound for Montreal in Canada on July 31 were diverted to Ottawa because of the weather. Such diversions are not uncommon and no one should take an issue with that. But what an airline does next in such an event is critical, as this will likely decide how its customers will react, whether with anger and criticism or with understanding, even praise.

The first Air Transat flight from Brussels sat in the tarmac in Ottawa for 6 hours, with all the passengers kept on board after a journey of more than eight hours. The second flight was held at Ottawa airport for four hours.

One passenger on the first flight said that “people are just losing their minds”. There were complaints about no air-conditioning, the loss of power also causing the cabins to plunge into darkness, the lack of information, and the absence of adequate refreshments. So it seemed that whatever Air Transat was doing (or not doing), it was not enough. Subsequently one of the passengers called the police.

Most airlines would disembark their passengers if a delay is expected to be unduly long, notwithstanding there may be some restrictions pertaining to customs and immigration procedures. Passengers usually relish a change of environment instead of being cooped up in a plane especially when power is cut. Equally annoying is what is known as a creeping delay when the time for take-off keeps pushing back.

Air Transat said airport staff – because of the unusual amount of traffic – were unable to provide bridges or stairways to allow passengers to disembark. But Ottawa International Airport Authority spokesperson Krista Kealey said there were buses on standby in case the airline decided to disembark their passengers and process them through customs. “However,” she explained, “That decision was not taken by the airline, and ultimately it is the airline that is responsible for making those decisions about whether a flight disembarks.”

The Canadian government has been in the forefront advocating the protection of air travellers’ rights., having introduced legislation setting out national standards and measures that will apply to all airlines operating into and out of Canada. (See Canada acts to protect passengers; rights, May 20, 2017) Perhaps under the circumstances when an unduly long delay is anticipated, disembarking passengers should be made a mandatory requirement.

Yet did Air Transat even consider that option? And why not?

All airlines know that an aircraft delay can be a costly affair – from the use of airport facilities and engaging airport agency staff to handle the situation to catering to the needs of passengers and incurring crew’s overtime. There may also be demands for compensation. Such are unnecessary costs, but things do not always go as planned.

By the way, Air Transat was not the only airline that was affected. According to Ms Kealey, there were 20 diversions due to severe weather. Wondering what the other airlines did?

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About Dingzi
Writer by passion, with professional expertise in aviation, customer service and creative writing. Aviation veteran, author, editor and management consultant. Besides commentary on business issues and life-interest topics, travel stories and book reviews, genres include fiction, poetry and plays. Nature lover who abhors cruelty of any form to animals, and a tireless traveler. Above all, a dreamer.

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