Did Air Transat flout Canadian aviation rules?

Courtesy Air Transat

Following up on complaints about the delays of two Air Transat flights on July 31 at Ottawa International Airport, Canada’s air transportation agency is said to be investigating whether Air Transat has flouted the rules. (See Air Transat delays raise passengers’ ire, Aug 2, 2017)

The agency said the airline signed a document that sets out, among other things, an airline’s rights and responsibilities towards its passengers. According to that tariff, in the case of an on-board delay of more than 90 minutes, Air Transat promises to offer passengers the option of getting off the plane.

Air Transat’s defense was that the exceptional congestion at the airport because of several flight diversions caused by bad weather at Montreal had resulted in airport staff not being able to cope with providing bridges for disembarkation. This claim was refuted by the airport authority, which maintained that air stairs and a gate were available but the airline did not make the decision to disembark its passengers.

It was not until a passenger on one of the two delayed Air Transat flights called 911 that emergency crew finally brought bottled water to the stranded passengers cooped up in the aircraft without air-conditioning.

According to Ottawa Airport spokesperson Krista Kealey, emergency crews had to deal with several medical calls and getting the Canada Border Services Agency to approve the opening of the cargo hold to check on a pet. The aircraft also had mechanical issues and needed to be refuelled.

The first Air Transat flight from Brussels sat on the tarmac for six hours after a journey of some nine hours. The second flight which was similarly diverted from Montreal was delayed for four hours.

The airport said there were 20 diversions, not 30 as claimed by Air Transat.

Air Transat said the situation was beyond its control. Yes, the weather bit, but the contention is its failing in not attending to the needs of its customers as a consequence. It is likely that following investigations by the transport agency, Air Transat may be required to compensate its passengers if it had not already thought about it. But this may again be a long road to resolution dependent on the terms of carriage.

Low-cost carriers that offer attractive travel packages may not be as equipped as full-service airlines in handling unexpected situations arising from delays and cancellations. And that’s not saying full-service airlines are necessarily better at the job all the time although it is expected so, since they are more likely to have the resources to deal with unplanned situations. Besides, from the customer’s point of view, that’s the price of their willingness to pay a higher fare.

Still, whether you fly low-cost or full-service, it is good to know your rights. And transport agencies administering civil aviation may be the traveller’s only hope of protecting his or her rights when it comes down to a case of David vs Goliath.

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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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