Why is there so much chaos at airports? Airlines, not airports, are to blame for holiday travel chaos: expert

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The great strain that is plaguing Canadian airlines this year as people start traveling again pales in comparison to last week’s chaos of the holiday season.

Canceled flights, endless queues, mountains of lost luggage and passengers stranded for days seem to be the norm at most of the country’s major airports. This left many wondering: with all the pandemonium airports experienced in the last year leading up to this, why couldn’t there have been more preemptive planning?

Gabor Lukacs is the president of Air Passenger Rights, a non-profit group that helps educate and advocate for airline passengers. He says that what is happening now in airports like Vancouver, in addition to bad weather conditions, is the lack of organization on the part of airlines.

“Obviously with the current climate in BC and in Toronto, planes cannot take off and cannot land, it is a safety issue,” he says. Yahoo Canada News🇧🇷

It’s a completely different matter when people are stuck on the tarmac for 10 or 12 hours, that’s bad planning because the airline shouldn’t have boarded a flight that didn’t have a clear plan for landing if it couldn’t take off.Gabor Lukacs, president of the nonprofit group Air Passenger Rights

While flights canceled due to weather conditions are reasonable, it becomes questionable when some airlines cancel their flights to certain destinations but others continue to fly there.

“It’s not like airlines have such capabilities that one airline would be forced to cancel and others wouldn’t,” he says. “If it can’t, then it’s in the control of the carrier and not the weather.”

Lukacs says that if it is clear, based on available solid methodological information, that there is no reasonable hope that flights will depart or land, then those flights should not be presented to the public as if they were still scheduled.

“That means passengers will be at the airport rather than in the comfort of their own homes,” he says.

What you need to know as a passenger: Airlines must pay

In addition to runway delays, another major airline problem that Lukacs is seeing in abundance is the failure to rebook passengers. Under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, if a flight is canceled based on weather or other conditions beyond the carrier’s control, the airline must offer passengers the option to book on the next available flight. If it cannot find a flight on its own network, the airline has to buy the passenger a ticket on another airline, if one is available.

“I expect both airlines (Air Canada and Westjet) are fighting this provision to some extent,” says Lukacs. “The last question is, how is the government going to respond to this?”

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

“Passenger rights are on the books but not being enforced and that is a particular concern,” he says.

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

Lukacs is not confident the Canadian Transport Agency will hold airlines accountable as “they are treating airlines like untouchables, like they are above the law”. He adds that there is no real evidence that airports are doing anything wrong in the current holiday chaos. Even functions like refueling are handled by airport subcontractors.

“Airlines love to point fingers at other players, but I don’t see any evidence of that happening here,” he says. “For delayed passengers, it appears that the airport is to blame, but in fact, for the vast majority of these functions, it is the airline subcontractors and therefore the responsibility lies with the airline.”

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