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.
.@AirCanada can you please send someone to the check in counter in ottawa? Flight canceled after being delayed 6 hours, no one here to help. Need a voucher or im sleeping in the airport #aircanada #travel pic.twitter.com/rgzYzYmZy9
— Jon🏄♂️ (@b1gtimetimmyjon) December 20, 2022
Many passengers waiting to be assisted by Air Canada about canceled flights.
However, lack of personnel is also a problem here…
Only one attendant working at the moment. pic.twitter.com/J6w2fGRqFH
— Fernando Bossoes (@fernandobossoes) December 19, 2022
@AirCanada this is the 3rd time I was on hold with baggage delays for 2 hours and the line was dropped and I was hung up on. I am desperate for someone to call me back and give me answers about where my luggage is! #AirCanada pic.twitter.com/vkDFb8Ddwt
— TRINGA (@tringarexhepi) December 18, 2022
Stuck on the tarmac at #yvr for 6+ hours, then told by #aircanada that luggage from cancelled flight will not be returned. Oh and also - seriously - to “go home”. It’s a blizzard, I don’t live here, my stuff is in a bag they won’t locate. Families here with kids too. Scandalous!! pic.twitter.com/t6PqbXRjZN
— huskykoala (@huskykoala3000) December 20, 2022
It’s official: @AirCanada is GARBAGE.
So I flew AC to Vancouver. Business class. And my luggage and I were still separated for a day. Even with biz class AC can’t reunite you with your luggage when you land.
And the staff are RUDE. Which means management treats them like 🚮
— Erica Ifill (@wickdchiq) December 20, 2022
Hey @AirCanada, good news! My 'lost' bag is -- by incredible coincidence - visible in this pic posted recently from T1 at YYZ. BS news? I provided pic to you by DM (at your request) 24+ hrs ago & have got no response. Can you tell me how to retrieve my bag? It's been SIX days. pic.twitter.com/aPKmRlouPH
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 17, 2022