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

Clover Valley Beer Festival cancelled

Cloverdale beer fest falls victim to COVID-19

Surrey baseball association loses ‘a true giant’ in Bruce Lawson

Longtime volunteer ‘always gave his heart and soul to Surrey Canadian and the game of baseball’

Surrey School District forecasts up to 30 per cent of students will return to class this week

Education Minister Rob Fleming said on June 1, about 60,000 B.C. children returned to school

South Surrey’s Darts Hill Garden Park to re-open – by appointment

City of Surrey-run garden will be open to visitors Thursday through Saturday

Low-cost bicycle repair shop opens in Cloverdale

Cloverdale Community Cycles starts up in church parking lot

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

RCMP, coroner investigate ‘unexpected deaths’ on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Help the ‘Cloverdale Reporter’ continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

B.C. NDP says Andrew Wilkinson is wrong about federal link

Parent, superintendent, trustee report smooth return to classrooms in B.C.

The biggest challenge is convincing families that it’s safe, some say

Two more COVID-19 cases reported by Langley long term care facility

One resident, one staffer have tested positive for the coronavirus

Most Read