Flair Airlines is apologizing and promising refunds after long lines at Victoria International Airport left 50 to 100 passengers stranded on Aug. 26.
Victoria resident Nicole Kemp was scheduled to fly from Victoria to Toronto that day, but when she arrived at the airport a little over two hours before her flight in order to drop off her checked baggage with the airline, she was faced with a line running through much of the check-in area as dozens of passengers on three Flair flights tried to do the same.
“All of a sudden, we could hear passengers at the front starting to get agitated, then a man in line turned around and said ‘none of you are getting on your flight and the staff are closing the counters,’” said Kemp. “There was this panic of ‘what’s going on.’ We were trying to get closer to the counter to hear what was going on, and all we could really hear was staff saying ‘sorry, there is nothing we can really do about it, you’ll have to contact Flair on Monday (Aug. 28), the counter is closed and the plane is departing.”
The situation forced Kemp and her travel partner to purchase new tickets with Air Canada for $600 apiece, and she said some affected passengers had rushed to try and catch a ferry to Vancouver in hopes of finding new flights there.
Kemp said as of Thursday (Aug. 31) when she spoke to Black Press Media, all attempts to contact Flair customer support had been met with responses placing the blame on passengers for not arriving at the airport earlier, despite the airline’s own website recommending passengers arrive “at least two hours” ahead of scheduled departure, and that airport check-in and bag counters open three hours before departure.
In a statement Friday, Flair shifted its response to an apology, taking “full responsibility” for the situation.
“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,” wrote a spokesperson for the airline.
“Flair Airlines takes full responsibility for this situation, and we regret the impact it had on our customers’ travel plans. We are diligently investigating the issues to identify their underlying causes and address them promptly. Our unwavering commitment remains to provide safe and dependable air travel at the most affordable prices, and we are devoted to preventing similar incidents from occurring in the future. For passengers who have been affected, we will be reaching out via email in the coming days to arrange full refunds.”
Kemp said Flair ultimately needs to compensate impacted passengers since the situation boils down to the airline’s inability to process all of the passengers they sold tickets to, but more importantly, it shows passenger rights and airline accountability still needs to be strengthened in Canada.
“I’m really hoping the (Canadian Transportation Authority) really takes notice of the lack of support. Just having somewhere to go to get information, get directions would be a help,” she said. “This particular situation isn’t really covered right now … we are claiming this as a denial of boarding, but we don’t really know if that is right at this point.”
In situations when flights are delayed or cancelled for reasons within an airline’s control, the CTA requires airlines to provide clear communication of the situation to passengers, arrange and offer alternative travel options or a refund for the affected flight, and pay compensation for the inconvenience. In situations where flights are impacted for reasons outside an airline’s control or within their control but for safety reasons, communication requirements and assistance with alternate travel options must still be met, though no compensation or refund is required.