‘We were all told to come get our baggage. All 3000 of us’: Air Canada passengers fume over delays, luggage, despite rebooking policy

A weekend of holiday delays sparked the ire of passengers, despite Air Canada's attempt to fix the problem

This week, major winter storms in Vancouver, Southern Ontario, and Quebec halted holiday travel plans for thousands of Canadians.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled or cancelled due to extreme weather conditions. Many saw strong winds, heavy snowfall, ice pellets and flash freezing in their area.

The snowstorm caused airlines like WestJet and Air Canada to proactively cancel flights at Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia airports and allow passengers to get full refunds on their purchases.

On Thursday, Air Canada announced a flexible rebooking policy across Canada.

“Due to the current weather event affecting Vancouver (YVR), Toronto (YYZ), Montreal (YUL) and Ottawa (YOW), we understand that you may want to make alternate travel arrangements,” their statement read.

However, Air Canada passengers and customers took to social media and accused the airline of poor customer service. Many experienced extensive delays, were stranded at airports, and had luggage missing.

What you need to know if your flight is delayed or cancelled

Gabor Lukas, President of the Air Passenger Rights non-profit group, says that the travel chaos has everything to do with the airline, and not airports.

Under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, if a flight is cancelled based on weather, or other conditions outside of the carrier’s control, the airline has to give passengers the option to be booked on the next available flight. If they cannot find a flight on their own network, the airline has to buy the passenger a ticket on another airline, if there’s one available.

“I expect both airlines (Air Canada and Westjet) to be battling this provision to some degree,” Lukacs says. “The latest question is, how is the government going to respond to that?”

Under the law, the airline can be fined up to $25,000 per incident, per passenger. But whether that’s going to happen remains to be seen.

“The passengers rights are there in the books but they’re not being enforced and that’s a particular concern,” he says.

While passengers can be compensated for lost luggage, not being offered alternative transportation when there are options available is against the law.