Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday he has spoken with Air Canada about problems continuing to plague its new booking system on the cusp of holiday travel season, but that resolving them is beyond his reach.

“We’ve let them know that we’re hearing from a lot of customers that they’re very frustrated and that they’re also having trouble getting through a customer relation site at Air Canada,” Garneau said.

“They’re doing their best to fix it. It is something that is in the hands of Air Canada. Transport Canada cannot do anything.”

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago, triggering a barrage of social media complaints from passengers who had difficulty accessing their booking information or reaching customer service agents.

Calls to the customer service line Wednesday went straight to a voice recording from department director Jean-Francois Loignon, who apologized for the “delay” and asks customers not flying within 24 hours to consult their travel plans online.

“Due to current volumes, I apologize that we are not able to place you on hold at this time,” he said.

Air Canada said in an email Wednesday that it is “working to resolve the issues as soon as possible.”

“This was a massive IT project, which occurred over two years and involved 700,000 hours of development. With an IT project of such complexity, issues are inevitable,” the airline said.

Many concern passengers who are changing their bookings, but “most customers have not been impacted and they continue to travel normally.”

The second phase of a new set of passenger rights rules is set to come into effect on Sunday, but passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says they are “toothless” when it comes to the latest problems.

“Air Canada cannot avoid its obligations to passengers by making itself unreachable,” he said.

The upcoming batch of regulations mandates compensation of up to $1,000 for delays and other payments for cancelled flights.

The rules impose no obligation on airlines to pay customers for delays or cancellations if they were caused by mechanical problems discovered in a pre-flight check — walking around the aircraft before takeoff looking for defects — rather than during scheduled maintenance.

The issue came to the forefront after a 2017 incident in which two Montreal-bound Air Transat jets were diverted to Ottawa due to bad weather and held on the tarmac for up to six hours, leading some passengers to call 911 for rescue.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is responsible for ensuring air carriers abide by their tariffs — airlines’ contract with customers — Lukacs noted. Air Canada’s tariff stipulates that “the carrier will effect a change in the routing…travel dates or will cancel a reservation” at the passenger’s request.

“If Air Canada frustrates that process, it is not doing its part of the bargain,” Lukacs said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2019.

Companies in this story: (TSX:AC)

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Local liquor store raising funds for food bank

On May 30, a portion of sales at JAK’s Beer Wine & Spirits will be donated to the food bank

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

City of Campbell River re-opening most park amenities and outdoor washrooms

Splash park, playgrounds, sports fields, outdoor volleyball courts, indoor facilities not yet

First Nation’s guardians ‘take matters into their own hands’ and organize environmental clean-up

Mamalilikulla guardians step up to clear abandoned boats after no response from natural resource officers

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read