Category: Edmonton YEG

Updated: Swoop emergency landing in Abbotsford

News provided by The Abbotsford News – link to full story and updates – with a hint from P.N.

Passenger jet makes emergency landing in Abbotsford after hitting birds

737 aircraft hit flock of birds shortly after takeoff

Patrick Penner, 10 September 2019

A 737 aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing at Abbotsford International Airport Tuesday morning after hitting a flock of birds shortly after takeoff.

Flight number 312 departed from Abbotsford at 8:07 a.m. and was headed for Edmonton under Swoop airlines. It was carrying over 100 people.

People around the city reported hearing a loud boom in the skies and one witness said she saw flames coming out of one of the engines. One passenger reported a burning smell filling the cabin, which the pilot then reported was the result of the birds combusting.

“It’s not in my memory the last time an aircraft landed here due to an emergency tied to a bird-strike,” said the airport’s general manager, Parm Sidhu.

Police cordoned off the area as emergency crews headed to the scene prior to the plane landing.

It without further incident and passengers were escorted to the terminal to await another flight shortly after.

Flair Airlines Reports 92% Load Factor for Summer 2019

Provided by Flair Airlines/Globe Newswire

Edmonton, Alberta, Sept. 05, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Flair Airlines, Canada’s only truly independent low cost airline, is pleased to report an average passenger load factor of 92% for July & August 2019. 

“We are delighted with the rapidly growing number of Canadians who have flocked to Flair this summer” said CEO Jim Scott. He continued ,“After only one year as an exclusively scheduled carrier we have established Flair as the place to go for low fares, great service and are already recognizing many return customers.”

During the summer, Edmonton-based Flair flew from Vancouver, Abbotsford, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax. Flair successfully initiated daily non-stop service between Toronto (YYZ) and Vancouver as well as between Toronto and Calgary.

Over the last few months, as part of it’s fleet renewal program, Flair has added three newer Boeing 737-800NG aircraft and is gradually phasing out it’s older B737-400’s. All three additions sport Flair’s distinctive new livery and logo.

By next summer Flair plans to be operating a single-type fleet of B737-800 NG‘s, which are more fuel efficient and also have longer range capabilities. Flair’s unified fleet will open up a number of exciting southern destinations offered at accessible rates.

While Flair’s year-to-date on-time performance has been one of the best in Canada, the younger aircraft should serve to make it even better.

Meet the honeymooners who became the test case for new airline passenger rules

News provided by TheRecord.com – link to full story and updates

When Chelsea Williamson and Sean Fitzpatrick’s honeymoon was delayed by a flight change, WestJet offered them less than what they were entitled to under new air passenger protection regulations.

25 August 2019 By Rosa Saba, Star Calgary

Chelsea-Williamson_2
Chelsea Williamson and her husband, Sean Fitzpatrick. – Provided

When Edmonton couple Chelsea Williamson and Sean Fitzpatrick’s honeymoon was delayed by a flight change, WestJet offered them $125 WestJet dollars each — less than what they were entitled to under new air passenger protection regulations. Williamson complained to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which has since launched an investigation. – Chelsea Williamson photo

lukacs
Airline passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says new regulations leave much more room for airlines to take advantage of customers and deny them the compensation he feels they deserve. – Andrew Vaughan , The Canadian Press file photo

CALGARY—On July 22, newlyweds Chelsea Williamson and Sean Fitzpatrick arrived at the airport, excited to kick off their honeymoon in Europe with a flight to Venice.

The Edmonton couple checked into their flight online at around 4 p.m. the day before. They arrived at the airport the next morning, went through security and made it to their gate, only to be told they were no longer on the plane, Williamson said in an email.

Sometime after they checked in, their aircraft was changed to a smaller plane and the couple was told by a WestJet agent that they had been moved onto a new flight that would leave five hours later. The agent told them they should have been notified of the change by Air Miles, which they used to book the flight.

Williamson said she received no notification from Air Miles and when she contacted them, they told her that they had not been notified of the change by WestJet.

According to an Air Miles spokesperson, after a passenger has checked in, it is the airline’s responsibility to notify them of any schedule changes.

Williamson reached out to WestJet customer service via Twitter direct message, where she was told the flight change was due to overselling of tickets by Delta, WestJet’s partner airline.

She said WestJet called it a “schedule change,” and offered her and Fitzpatrick $125 WestJet dollars each. But something didn’t feel right, so Williamson checked the WestJet website and found that schedule changes within the three-day period before a flight are considered delays or cancellations.

Since the plane the couple was supposed to be on was not delayed or cancelled, Williamson felt this was a case of denied boarding, which would merit much more than $125 WestJet dollars per person. Under the new regulations that came into effect just a week before their flight, compensation for denied boarding is between $900 and $2,400, depending on the hours delayed.

“If they are attempting to do this with me, I can only imagine how many people they are also doing this to,” Williamson said in the email.

She complained to the Canadian Transportation Agency. On Aug. 16, the CTA announced it is launching a federal investigation into the incident.

In an email, WestJet media relations said the company cannot comment on the ongoing investigation. They said they were committed to their customers “even when things do not go according to plan” and continued to work with the CTA to implement the new regulations.

But airline passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said spats like this over the definition of denied boarding could be the new norm.

In February, the Air Passenger Rights organization, headed by Lukacs, sent a 52-page report to the Canadian Transportation Agency outlining its concerns and recommendations regarding the new air passenger protection regulations, some of which came into effect July 15, 2019. The rest of the regulations come into force at the end of the year.

The advocacy group said it had two major concerns with the regulations. The first is the length of time passengers can be kept on the tarmac. This was extended from 90 minutes to more than three hours, said Lukacs. The second is the term “denied boarding,” a rule Lukacs says has been made stricter to the point where airlines can weasel their way out of compensation in pretty much any scenario.

That’s what Lukacs says is happening right now to Williamson, a situation he calls a “disgrace.”

“It took us one week to prove that we were right about this. I’m very sad, because it was so predictable,” said Lukacs.

Lukacs said that during the public and stakeholder engagement regarding the regulations, all he and his organization asked was that the current standards be upheld.

Instead, he said the new regulations leave much more room for airlines to take advantage of customers and deny them the compensation he feels they deserve.

“It’s not like we were asking for the sky.”

Air Canada media relations directed Star Calgary to a webpage outlining the airline’s tariff policies concerning denied boarding and damaged or lost luggage under the new regulations.

So, what changed on July 15 for airline passengers, and what is yet to come?

According to an overview of the new regulations posted to the Canadian Transportation Agency’s website, the regulations apply to all flights to, from and within Canada. On July 15, regulations concerning general communication, flight delays and cancellations, denial of boarding, accessibility, tarmac delays, lost or damaged baggage and transportation of musical instruments came into effect.

Airlines are required to provide passengers with proper treatment during tarmac delays, including food, water and the ability to contact others outside the airplane. The maximum tarmac delay before an aircraft must allow passengers to disembark is three hours, with an additional 45 minutes if it is likely the plane will depart during that time.

The new regulations also set a concise definition of denied boarding: when a passenger has a valid ticket for a flight, but cannot board because there are more passengers than seats.

Airlines are required to provide compensation to passengers denied boarding at the time the denial occurs, and must rebook them free of charge.

On Dec. 15, the rest of the regulations will come into effect. These include compensation for delays and cancellations, standards of treatment for disrupted flights and seating of children.

Delays or cancellations within the airline’s control that are unrelated to safety could result in compensation between $400 and $1,000 for large airlines, or $125 and $500 for small airlines.

On the Air Passenger Rights Facebook page, passengers on flights around the world post daily asking Lukacs and others for advice regarding baggage claims, compensation and more. Several passengers have posted about situations similar to Williamson’s: where passengers say they have been offered a small amount of compensation, usually a discount on an upcoming flight or a voucher. Lukacs said they’re owed much more.

“The passengers in those cases are entitled to compensation,” he said. “The airlines are just trying to brush them off and mislead them that they are only owed a small amount.

Rosa Saba is a reporter/photographer with Star Calgary.

Summer airport crowds prompt recommendation to arrive earlier for flights

News provided by CBC News – link to full story

Edmonton – August is the airport’s busiest month of the year

CBC News · Posted: Aug 04, 2019

August is the busiest month of the year at the Edmonton International Airport. (Tom Arban)

Travellers embarking on summer vacations should arrive at Edmonton International Airport an extra hour early in August, airport officials say. 

Passengers should tack on the extra hour for both domestic and international flights, communications and passenger experience vice president Traci Bednard told CBC. That means arriving two hours prior to a domestic flight, and three hours before an international flight. 

“August is actually the busiest month of the year for us,” Bednard said.

Over 800,000 passengers travelled through Edmonton International in August 2018. July was the next busiest month, with over 700,000 passengers. Bednard said Christmas and winter break can also see volumes spike, but August takes the prize for busiest overall time of year.

“It’s also a month where we see a lot of leisure travel, vacation travel, so, you know, folks that might not be as familiar with using the airport,” she said. 

Bednard said recent updates to security procedures may help ease wait-times, but she recommends travellers take extra time and avoid risking getting stressed out about making it to the gate on time.

Calgary International Airport also recommends showing up earlier than than normal during peak summer travel times, but that airport advises 30 to 45 extra minutes should be adequate. 

Nearly eight million passengers travelled through Edmonton’s airport in 2018. 

More flights, more often with WestJet’s winter schedule

Provided by WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership/CNW

Frequency increases to popular domestic, transborder and international destinations from airline’s hubs in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto

Seasonal service to Paris and Nashville from Calgary resumes early in March 2020

CALGARY, July 22, 2019 /CNW/ – As part of its 2019/2020 seasonal winter schedule, today WestJet announced increased frequency and improved connectivity from its hubs to more destinations across its network.

WestJet Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner photographed on March 5, 2018 by Chad Slattery from Wolfe Air Learjet 25. (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)
WestJet Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner photographed on March 5, 2018 by Chad Slattery from Wolfe Air Learjet 25. (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

WestJet’s seasonal schedule for winter 2019/2020 features more flights from Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto to domestic, transborder, international and sun destinations and includes WestJet’s seasonal service to both Paris and Nashville from Calgary, commencing earlier than past years on March 12 (Paris) and March 16 (Nashville). WestJet’s popular daily summer seasonal service between Calgary and Portland (PDX) will also extend through winter. 

“By executing on our hub strategy, we’re improving schedules not only for guests in Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto, but also building thousands of new connections for guests across the country,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “This winter Canadians have more flights and better access to popular leisure and business destinations and will benefit from schedule improvements, frequency increases and improved connectivity across our growing global network.”

For winter, WestJet’s 787-9 Dreamliner will also fly between Calgary and Maui and as previously announced, the airline’s new weekly non-stop service between Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and Los Cabos Mexico International Airport (SJD) begins November 5, 2019 and service between Calgary and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ) commences on December 14, 2019.

Highlights of WestJet’s 2019/2020 winter schedule include:

  • Calgary-Halifax, from seven times weekly to 10 times weekly
  • Calgary-London, Gatwick, from three times weekly to four times weekly flights
  • Calgary-Fort Lauderdale, from once weekly to twice weekly
  • Calgary-Honolulu, from two times weekly to three times weekly
  • Calgary-Varadero, from once weekly to twice weekly
  • Calgary-Paris, seasonal service beginning March 12, 2020
  • Calgary-Nashville, seasonal service beginning March 16, 2020
  • Calgary-Portland, extension of daily summer route through winter
  • Calgary-Maui, 787 Dreamliner service
  • Vancouver-Winnipeg, from 13 times weekly to two daily flights
  • Vancouver-Orange County, from six times weekly to daily
  • Vancouver-San Jose del Cabo, from five times weekly to daily
  • Vancouver-Puerto Vallarta, from eight times weekly to nine times weekly
  • Vancouver-Huatulco, from once weekly to twice weekly
  • Vancouver-Cancun, from seven times weekly to nine times weekly
  • Toronto-Fort Myers, from 10 times weekly to 11 times weekly
  • Toronto-Aruba, from twice weekly to three times weekly
  • Toronto-Kingston, from three times weekly to four times weekly
  • Toronto-London, Gatwick, daily service offered on WestJet’s 787 Dreamliner
  • Ottawa-Fort Myers, from once weekly to twice weekly
  • Edmonton-Saskatoon, from 18 times weekly to 23 times weekly
  • Victoria- San Jose Del Cabo, new weekly service beginning November 5, 2019
  • Calgary-Punta Cana, new weekly service beginning December 14, 2019

For more information on new routes and increased frequencies in WestJet’s 2019/2020 winter schedule, please visit westjet.com/flight-schedules-new

Plane blows 2 tires on landing at Edmonton International Airport

News provided by CBC News – link to full story

No one was injured in the incident

Trevor Howlett · CBC News · Posted: Jul 19, 2019

A WestJet Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft, like this one shown here, blew two tires on landing Friday at Edmonton International Airport. (Pat Fogg/CBC)

Passengers on a WestJet flight to Edmonton had an unexpected scare Friday evening as their plane blew its two front tires while landing.

The flight was WS 3362 from Fort McMurray to Edmonton. There were 70 passengers on the flight. No one was injured in the incident. The plane was a Bombardier Q400. 

Thunderstorms in the area exacerbated the situation for passengers, as crews could not attend to the plane due to lightning risk, so the plane remained on the tarmac. It was about a 80 minutes later that passengers finally got to the gate. 

Ian Williams was on the flight at the time, heading home to Edmonton. 

“I knew we were landing in a storm, but all of a sudden there was a downdraft that slammed the front nose down, and all of a sudden we heard the tires go pop,” said Williams. 

Williams said the nose of the plane looked to be damaged. 

WestJet said the aircraft will be out of service, which will affect other flights.

“The aircraft has subsequently been removed from service for further inspection from our maintenance team and as a result flight 3125 and 3198 have been cancelled due to limited aircraft availability,” WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in a statement.

“Our teams are working on reaccommodation options for guests affected by those cancellations and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Bell said the delay isn’t expected to affect connecting flights for passengers on WS 3362.

Williams praised the pilot for his handling of the situation and said he didn’t feel like the plane was in any danger.

Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation Complete Transaction to Unite First Air and Canadian North as Strong, Sustainable Pan-Arctic Airline

Provided by Makivik Corporation/CNW

OTTAWA, July 10, 2019 /CNW/ -Makivik Corporation and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) are pleased to announce that they have completed the transaction to merge First Air and Canadian North into a strong, sustainable Pan-Arctic airline. This means that First Air and Canadian North will be able to begin the process of integrating their operations, with further details on the timing and duration of this process to be released very soon. 

The unified Canadian North will continue to meet and exceed the expectations of the people and organizations that rely on the availability of safe, reliable and cost-effective air service. Johnny Adams, who is currently Executive Chairman of First Air, will serve as Executive Chairman of the merged airline. Patrick Gruben, the current Chairman of Inuvialuit Development Corporation and Chairman of Canadian North, will assume the role of Vice-Chairman. Together, they will provide steady, northern-focused guidance and oversight to the merged airline on behalf of all Northerners.

As a 100% Inuit-owned airline, Canadian North’s overarching mission will be to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods to, from and within Inuit Nunangat, with the potential to expand its service to even more destinations in the future. It will strive to lead the aviation industry as a top employer, with continued focus on recruiting Inuit and other Indigenous team members for excellent careers within this sector. Through these efforts, it will contribute to the development of a stronger and more dynamic northern economy for the benefit of current and future generations.

“The completion of this merger transaction signifies an important step forward for the people of the north,” said Johnny Adams, Executive Chairman. “A unified pan-Arctic airline that provides sustainable passenger and cargo service will help to improve the lives of Northerners through the economic growth that it will enable and career opportunities it will create.” 

“This is truly an Inuit-led solution that will drive additional investment and growth within the northern communities we serve while making the air travel we depend on more sustainable and efficient,” said Patrick Gruben, Vice-Chairman.  

The new Canadian North will serve a combined network of 24 northern communities, from its southern gateways of Ottawa, Montreal and Edmonton, with seamless interline connections to destinations throughout Canada, the United States and beyond. It will also be the premier provider of air charter services for large resource sector clients requiring dependable, efficient and economical fly-in/fly-out charter services, as well as charter flights across North America for sports teams, cruise lines and large groups.

Swoop points to Boeing 737 Max ripple effect after wave of flight cancellations

News provided by CTVNews.ca – link to full story

A Swoop Airlines Boeing 737-800
A Swoop Airlines Boeing 737-800 is on display during a media event, June 19, 2018 at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Ont. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton)

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press  – Published Monday, July 8, 2019

Swoop airline is facing a backlog of flights after engine trouble on an aircraft touched off a four-day wave of flight disruptions that has left passengers stranded and angry.

Passengers who had booked flights with the ultra-low-cost airline were left scrambling after it cancelled 23 flights between July 5 and July 10 due to “unscheduled maintenance” on a defective engine.

Swoop policy requires the low-cost subsidiary of WestJet Airlines Inc. to reroute passengers on other airlines if it cannot rebook them on its own flights “within a reasonable amount of time.”

The policy applies to events “within Swoop’s control,” which the maintenance issues were, according to spokeswoman Karen McIsaac.

She said the vast majority of passengers were rescheduled on Swoop flights and that it would deal with requests for rebooking on another airline “on a case-by-base basis.”

The company partly blamed the Boeing 737 Max aircraft grounding for preventing it from chartering other aircraft to accommodate stranded travellers.

“We are exploring options to charter aircraft to assist with the relief, however there are few options to do so as availability is limited in light of the MAX grounding,” McIsaac said in an email.

Authorities across the globe banned the Boeing aircraft from their skies last spring after two crashes — in Indonesia in October and Ethiopia in March — killed all 346 passengers aboard, including 18 Canadians.

Frustrated travellers took to social media, complaining that the carrier rebooked them on Swoop flights up to five days later and that its customer care centre was closed over the weekend.

The Canadian Transportation Agency, asked whether it would launch an investigation, said it “is monitoring the situation.”

The transportation watchdog said it has received two complaints so far, but noted that “what constitutes ‘a reasonable amount of time’ might depend on the situation, and this may have to be determined by the agency.”

McIsaac said Swoop is providing affected passengers with accommodation, meals and transportation “as needed.”

“Those that wish to cancel can do so for a full refund,” she added.

The maintenance problem affected one of Swoop’s seven aircraft, requiring an engine replacement due to a leaky oil seal on a Boeing 737-800 jetliner, McIsaac said. “This requires a significant amount of work and disassembly in order to fully repair the issue.”

The aircraft has a capacity of 189, meaning more than 4,300 passengers would be affected if all 23 flights were booked up.

The disruption is affecting flights from Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Orlando, Fla., and other cities.

Gabor Lukacs, head of the Air Passenger Rights advocacy group, said that under federal rules intended to beef up air traveller protections and set to take effect this year, Swoop passengers would receive no compensation due to a regulatory “loophole.”

The rules impose no obligation on airlines to pay customers for delays or cancellations if they were caused by mechanical problems discovered in a pre-flight check — walking around the aircraft before takeoff looking for defects — rather than during scheduled maintenance required after 100 hours cumulatively in the air.

“They’re saying the aircraft broke down, basically, that this is a maintenance issue,” Lukacs said, referring to Swoop.

“This is exactly why the new aircraft rules are a failure. In this case, under the new rules, passengers would not get compensation. They would not see a dime.”

The past week hasn’t gone smoothly for Swoop. On Thursday night, local police were called to Hamilton airport — “just to keep the peace,” said spokeswoman Const. Lorraine Edwards — after a flight bound for Las Vegas was cancelled and rescheduled for Friday evening.

Air Transat is synonymous with Sun to travellers in Western Canada

Provided by Transat A.T. Inc/CNW

The airline is strengthening its position as a leader in holiday travel this winter with new flights to Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Florida

MONTREAL, July 4, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Transat is pleased to present travellers in Western Canada with its enriched winter 2019-2020 program for Sun destinations in Central AmericaMexicoFlorida, the Caribbean and Europe. Named the 2019 World’s Best Leisure Airline by Skytrax, Air Transat will be introducing beachgoers from the Vancouver area to new destinations in Florida, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Travellers will have a choice of 20 South and Europe destinations from Vancouver. The most scenic beaches in the South will be accessible to passengers flying out of Calgary, Victoria, Edmonton and Winnipeg as well.

New destinations and more flights to the most popular Sun destinations  
The addition of new Airbus A321neoLRs to its fleet next winter will allow the carrier greater flexibility to offer a wider choice of destinations to travellers. As of December, Air Transat will become the sole company to fly direct from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (two direct flights a week), while also adding departures to Liberia and San Jose, Costa Rica, (two flights a week) as well as a direct flight to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Along with its new destinations from Vancouver, Air Transat will enhance its flight program from Calgary, adding another direct flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a total of four direct flights a week.  

Europe in winterFrom Vancouver, several of Canadians’ favourite European Sun destinations—such as Faro and Lisbon in Portugal and Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga in Spain—will be readily accessible via Montreal and Toronto. Flying through Toronto or Montreal, passengers will also be able to holiday in LondonGlasgow and Manchester in the United Kingdom too, as well as in Paris, France. 

Discovering more destinations with domestic and connecting flights
Air Transat’s domestic flights, which link some major Canadian cities, will allow British Columbians to explore other regions in Canada as well as South and transatlantic destinations accessible via connecting flights. The airline will continue its five direct weekly flights between Vancouver and Toronto and four direct weekly flights between Vancouverand Montreal.

From Vancouver: 20 South and Europe destinations

SouthNumber of flights (during peak season)
Costa Rica
Liberia2 flights a week
San Jose2 flights a week
Cuba
Cayo Santa Maria1 flight a week via Toronto
Holguin1 flight a week via Toronto
Varadero1 flight a week via Toronto
Dominican Republic
Puerto Plata1 flight a week via Toronto
Punta Cana1 direct flight a week and 3 flights a week via Toronto
Florida
Fort Lauderdale2 direct flights a week
Jamaica
Montego Bay, Jamaica1 flight a week via Toronto
Mexico
Cancun-Riviera Maya3 direct flights a week
Puerto Vallarta4 direct flights a week
EuropeNumber of flights (during peak season)
France
Paris3 flights a week via Montreal
Portugal
Faro2 flights a week via Toronto
Lisbon2 flights a week via Montreal
Spain
Barcelona1 flight a week via Toronto (until mid-January)
Madrid1 flight a week via Montreal (as of December)
Malaga1 flight a week via Montreal
United Kingdom
Glasgow4 flights a week via Toronto
London5 flights a week via Toronto
Manchester1 flight a week via Toronto

From Vancouver: domestic flights

Canada
Toronto5 direct flights a week
Montreal4 direct flights a week

From Victoria: 2 South destinations

MexicoNumber of flights (during peak season)
Cancun-Riviera Maya1 direct flight a week
Puerto Vallarta1 direct flight a week

From Calgary: 2 South destinations

SouthNumber of flights (during peak season)
Mexico
Cancun-Riviera Maya3 direct flights a week
Puerto Vallarta4 direct flights a week

From Edmonton: 3 South destinations

MexicoNumber of flights (during peak season)
Cancun-Riviera Maya3 direct flights a week
Huatulco1 direct flight a week
Puerto Vallarta3 direct flights a week

From Winnipeg: 4 South destinations

CubaNumber of flights (during peak season)
Varadero1 direct flight a week
Dominican Republic
Punta Cana1 direct flight a week
Mexico
Cancun-Riviera Maya3 direct flights a week
Puerto Vallarta3 direct flights a week

Canada’s Airlines, Airports Among World’s Worst For Delays, And It Could Soon Get Worse

News provided HuffingtonPost.ca – link to full article – with a hint from P.N.

By Daniel Tencer 4 July 2019

Under a new “passenger bill of rights,” airlines will be able to leave passengers stuck on the tarmac for longer than the current standard.
An airplane taking off at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International
An airplane taking off at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport.

MONTREAL ― Canadian airports and airlines are some of the worst performers worldwide when it comes to flight delays, and new federal rules that allow passengers to be stuck on the tarmac for longer could make things worse.

All but one of Canada’s major airlines rank in the bottom half for on-time performance in a new survey from travel data provider OAG. 

Canada’s best performer, WestJet, ranks 57th out of 125 airlines surveyed, with 77.1 per cent of all flights arriving on time. The country’s worst performer, Sunwing, ranks as the second-worst airline in the world, 124th out of 125, with only 57.8 per cent of flights on time.

Sunwing experienced numerous flight glitches in recent years, including major delays in Toronto and Montreal in April, 2018, that led to a fine from the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Canada's Airlines, Airports Among World's Worst For Delays, And It Could Soon Get

Looking at airports, Canada doesn’t fare much better. Our best airport, in Grande Prairie, Alta., ranks 108th out of 505 airports surveyed.

Toronto’s two commercial passenger airports, Pearson and Billy Bishop, rank as the two worst airports in Canada and among the worst in the world ― 475th and 489th, respectively.

Interestingly, there is a yawning east-west divide, with western Canadian airports performing better than others.

Canada's Airlines, Airports Among World's Worst For Delays, And It Could Soon Get

The survey comes as Canada is about to launch a new “passengers’ bill of rights” that some critics say will make it easier for airlines to delay flights.

Under the new regulations, airlines will be able to keep passengers stuck on the tarmac for up to three hours, plus an additional 45 minutes if the airline believes takeoff is imminent.

Currently, Canada has no government-enforced limits on tarmac delays, but airlines themselves had standards built into their tariffs. The industry standard was 90 minutes, which is also what a Senate committee recommended be the rule in the new passenger bill of rights. The government rejected that recommendation.

Airlines themselves have been pushing for longer tarmac delays. Air Canada extended its maximum tarmac time to four hours in 2018.

Additionally, it will be very difficult to get compensation from airlines in most cases where flights are delayed or passengers are denied boarding, said Gabor Lukacs, a prominent consumer advocate who has challenged airline practices in courts.

Watch: Here are the budget airlines in Canada. Story continues below.

Lukacs said he worries about the possibility of longer delays under the new rules because “when something becomes legal, they will do it. On the other hand, the counterargument is it’s in the airline’s best interest to get passengers to their destination as quickly as possible.”

Lukacs’ advocacy group, Air Passenger Rights, has accused the government of letting the airline industry dictate the new passengers’ bill of rights.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the tarmac delay rule was decided “based on operational realities and international best practices. For example, in the United States, air carriers are required to offer the option to disembark after a three hour delay on domestic flights, and a four hour delay on international flights.”

While airlines frequently blame weather for flight delays, data from the U.S. federal government shows that extreme weather events are responsible for fewer than 5 per cent of flight delays in the U.S. The most common reason for delays was late-arriving aircraft, meaning flights delayed because earlier flights were delayed. This accounted for nearly 42 per cent of U.S. delays. Canada does not currently keep track of this type of data.

But Lukacs points out that Canada has much harsher weather than most of the U.S., so it may not be a fair comparison. And Toronto’s worst-in-the-country Billy Bishop Airport has unique issues to deal with because it’s on an island.

“This may be an apples to oranges comparison,” he told HuffPost Canada by phone.

Nonetheless, Canada’s poor weather doesn’t explain why Alaska Airlines has a higher on-time percentage than any Canadian airline (80.7 per cent) and is the third best among U.S. airlines.

Lukacs argues these on-time rankings are incomplete: There isn’t enough data to determine, for instance, whether it’s a particular airport or a particular airline that’s behind delays in a given place.

Either way, airlines should be taking bad weather into account when planning their schedules, Lukacs said.

“If airlines and airports ignore the weather realities, then you have guaranteed, built-in failure,” he said.