Unusually heavy snowfall — up to 27 centimetres by 4 p.m. Tuesday — across the southern part of British Columbia brought the Vancouver International Airport to a screeching halt Tuesday morning.
At 7:30 a.m., all flights from YVR were suspended, and the majority of outgoing flights were either cancelled or delayed throughout the day.
WestJet released a statement saying that there were 210 cancellations Tuesday due to weather disruptions in Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. There were also 146 flight cancellations Monday and 104 Sunday.
Passengers reported all kinds of horror stories: being stranded at the airport, waiting on the tarmac for up to 12 hours, or sleeping on a baggage carousel.
What’s the next step for those stuck waiting, anxiously awaiting to see if their family and friends will be able to reach them over the holiday season?
In an email, YVR spokesperson Megan Sutton said passengers should check their flight status directly with their airline.
She said, “We ask people to not come to YVR if they don’t absolutely have to.”
Duncan Dee, former chief operating officer for Air Canada, said the weather and complete operational shutdown Tuesday morning don’t bode well for travellers.
In an interview, he stated that “for people who have delayed and cancelled flights at the moment in time, there are very few chances they will get to their destination from Vancouver any east.”
“So, even if they haven’t traveled yet, if their travel plans were affected by delays and cancellations they will not be able to book seats on airlines to take them to Christmas.
Rebooking flights by airlines within 48 hours
According to new Canadian regulations that came into effect Sept. 8, airlines must try to rebook cancelled flights within 48 hours.
Even if the cancellations are due to reasons outside of the company’s control — in this case, heavy snowfall — anyone who isn’t put on a new flight within two days is entitled to a refund or new travel arrangements at no additional cost.
The new rules are an extension of stricter air passenger rights laid out by the federal government in 2019.
The following is an extract from the Canadian Transportation AgencyThe regulator and quasi-judicial tribunal that enforces regulations and settles disputes between customers and airlines, is responsible for cancelling or delaying flights.
- Communicate the most important information.
- Assist others.
- Offer alternative travel arrangements or a full refund.
- Compensation for the inconvenience
Passengers are supposed to be given a clear explanation for the disruption and updates at least every 30 minutes, until a new departure time or flight arrangement has been determined.
Passenger waiting for their flight must also be provided with a reasonable amount food and beverages.
The CTA says large airlines have to book passengers on the next available flight they are operating, or a flight by an airline they have a commercial agreement with.
The new flight must follow a reasonable route from airport to passenger’s destination and depart within 48 hours after the cancellation or delay.
Refunds required within 30 days
If the airline is unable to meet this obligation, it may pay out of its own pocket to place the passenger on a comparable flight or transport them to another airport with a flight to their destination.
The CTA says refunds cover whatever portion of a ticket wasn’t used and go to the person who originally purchased it.
However, airlines can offer travel vouchers as an alternative, but only if they aren’t expired and if both sides agree in writing that they would prefer a voucher over a refund.
The airline has 30 days to pay out the passenger in cash, credit or travel vouchers.
When passengers are delayed to the point where their ticket no longer serves its purpose — say the date of an event they were travelling for has already passed — the airline has to send the passenger back to their point of origin for free and refund the entire ticket.
Passengers can file a claim for compensation up to one year from the date a flight was delayed or cancelled. The airline then has 30 days to respond, paying out what’s owed, or contesting the claim and explaining why it believes compensation isn’t due.
If flight plans were disrupted and a passenger feels the airline hasn’t met its obligations or has unfairly denied compensation, the CTA recommends contacting the airline in writing.
If a passenger doesn’t hear back within 30 days or are still unsatisfied with the company’s explanation, they can file a complaint with the regulatory agency.
The CTA has called the new rules a win for passengers, but some consumer advocates feel they don’t go far enough, and have said the agency should be stricter on airlines and more efficient in reviewing disputes and getting passengers paid out.
The CTA had to deal with a number of issues this summer. backlog of 18,200 complaints.
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