Maritimers’ anger boils over at airline


ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Anger with airline service in Newfoundland revved up a notch this week with a call from the mayor of St. John’s for a public inquiry into Air Canada’s service.

Andy Wells says Transport Canada should investigate the airline after complaints from travellers caught in storms during the Christmas holidays about delayed flights and missing baggage.

eTN Chatroom: Discuss with readers from around the world:

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick says he’s aware the mayor is calling for a public inquiry but there is currently no internal investigation underway.

Fitzpatrick said safety is the paramount concern for Air Canada.

“Over the peak holiday period Newfoundland and Labrador experienced persistent storms and, as a result, service was disrupted,” said Fitzpatrick.

He could not comment on any specific case but said, “we’re always reviewing all our operations, always looking for better ways to improve our service.”

Meanwhile, a Newfoundland man has started a Facebook site – Air Canada screwed me – to vent his anger at the airline.

Bob Baker writes on the site that the airline’s slogan should be: “We’re not happy until you’re not happy.”

Baker and his wife, Wendy, were stranded by a storm in Halifax in mid-December while on their way home to St. John’s.

When Air Canada told them the next available seats were Jan. 4, they paid nearly $1,000 for tickets on another airline that could get them back earlier.

“My poor wife almost collapsed,” Baker says.

On Tuesday, the organization that represents towns and cities in Newfoundland entered the fray, saying it was backing a call for a proposed airline passenger bill of rights that would protect people whose luggage is lost or have a flight delayed.

“If you buy an airline ticket and something goes wrong, you have almost no rights,” the president, Graham Letto, said. “We are simply saying that airline passengers should expect the same level of reliability as they would have buying any other goods or services.”

Letto said some inconvenience due to storms is understandable, but when flights are cancelled or luggage disappears, passengers are not compensated.

“We simply want to motivate the airline industry to adopt a better standard of service,” he said.