An air passenger rights advocate says that the dozens of travellers who were denied boarding by Flair Airlines are owed more than full refunds.
Victoria resident Nicole Kemp says she was planning to fly out of YYJ to visit family in Toronto on Saturday, Aug. 26, when she and dozens of other passengers were denied boarding.
Kemp says Flair staff at the check-in line initially said there would be delays but that passengers for three simultaneous flights – to Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto – would depart as scheduled.
After a delay, however, Kemp says staff told people in line that check-in was closed and to follow up with the company after the weekend.
“A man turned around and said ‘none of you are getting on your flights and Flair isn’t doing anything about it,” said Kemp.
Low-cost Canadian airline Flair says it will be issuing refunds to people who were stuck in Victoria after the check-in for their flights was unexpectedly closed.
About 50 to 100 people across the three flights were still waiting in line when boarding was closed, Kemp says, and multiple passengers tried to call Flair for information but were told the issue was with the airport and not the airline.
“There were no plans to rebook anyone. I overheard some of the employees say ‘I’m really sorry but there’s nothing we can do,'”
In a statement on Sept. 1, Low-cost Canadian airline Flair said it would be issuing refunds to people who were stuck in Victoria after the check-in for their flights was unexpectedly closed.
“The vast majority of Flair Airlines customers have an excellent experience with the airline. That was not the case here, and we’re sorry for it,” said the company in a statement.
“Flair Airlines takes full responsibility for this situation, and we regret the impact it had on our customers’ travel plans … For passengers who have been affected, we will be reaching out via email in the coming days to arrange full refunds,” said the airline.
Kemp says she has been in contact with other passengers and none have heard from the airline as of Sunday morning. No reason has been provided as to what caused the incident.
CHEK News has reached out to the company for an updated statement and to the Victoria International Airport as well.
Gabor Lukacs, President of Air Passenger Rights, an advocacy group called this situation “a breach of contract.”
“Flair did not say ‘we’re going to transport you tomorrow,’ Flair said ‘not now, not later, you are on your own.'” said Lukacs.
He says all the travellers are owed compensation for extra expenses on top of the full refund the airline has promised.
“If they had to buy a ticket on another airline, Flair has to pay for that. If they incurred meals or overnight accommodations, Flair has to pay for it. If they have longer car or rental or car parking expenses. Flair has to pay for it. If somebody missed work as a result. Flair has to pay for it.”
Lukacs says this case highlights issues with the current Air Passenger Protection Regulations which he calls “broken.” He says that the government does not strictly enforce its own laws and has filed for revision on some of the regulations.
“Two of the issues we addressed would be very helpful to passengers in this case because we first proposed that small carriers like Flair, would be subject to the same conditions as large carriers, like Air Canada,”
“We also proposed that denied boarding should be defined like in the European Union to expand it to all situations like passengers in this case,” said Lukacs.
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Kemp ended up paying for a new Air Canada flight the next day for about $600 one-way. She is writing a letter signed by her and at least 30 other passengers, asking the Canada Transportation Agency to investigate the incident.
Lukacs says the best course of action would be to ask the airline for their rightful compensation first, then file in small claims court if those rights aren’t met.
“Canadian transportation agency is part of the problem, not the solution. They have a huge backlog and they’re not enforcing passenger rights,” said the president.
“I would recommend passengers to withdraw their complaints and take their cases to the BC civil resolution tribunal or if they’re living in a different province, then to the small claims court of their province.”
While the Victoria traveller is heartened to hear that Flair is offering refunds, she says she’s still waiting for an answer.
“You wouldn’t experience this in other industries. You know I can’t imagine that like you go somewhere else and pay for something and they go ‘oh, you didn’t get your order in on time but we’re gonna keep your money and better luck next time.”