Photo by: Ivan Shimko
Over the last few weeks, a growing number of flight cancellations across North America have created widespread concern.
In Dec. 2022, mass cancellations began due to the major winter storms taking place across the continent. On Dec. 23, over 300 flights were cancelled at Vancouver International Airport, resulting in many passengers becoming unable to fulfill their Christmas plans.
The airport provided free access to over 400 hotel rooms in the area and gift cards to restaurants for passengers suffering a delay.
“As much as we love our airport, it is not the ideal location to spend the night,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO at Vancouver Airport Authority in a press release. “We’d like to thank our local hotel operators and restaurants for working with us to book these rooms and meals so quickly.”
While this occurrence certainly caused a lot of frustration within those who were hoping to fly out for the holidays, it is only a small excerpt of a larger situation.
The United States Department of Transportation became involved with another situation due to the December storm, in which Southwest Airlines cancelled over two-thirds of its scheduled flights over the Christmas weekend.
“USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service,” the Department stated in a tweet. “The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan.”
According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, at least 3,181 flights within, entering or exiting the U.S. were cancelled on Christmas Day. This came as flying numbers were beginning to make a return to pre-pandemic levels.
The discussion around flight cancellations has continued into the new year as the airline Sunwing cancels flights in droves. Sunwing began cancelling flights in Saskatchewan in late December, but this was merely the beginning.
Last week, Sunwing cancelled approximately 35 per cent of its flights throughout the remainder of its winter schedule at the Saskatoon airport. An airport in Regina has suffered the cancellation of all Sunwing flights until Feb. 4.
More locations affected by Sunwing’s cancellations include Winnipeg, Montreal and Mexico.
Conversations around a potential class-action lawsuit against the airline have formed, and it was recently reported that a party of 10 is hoping to attain $16,000 in compensation after their flights were cancelled in Saskatchewan.
The group’s members are not the only ones seeking compensation. As would-be travellers have their plans delayed or cancelled, Air Passenger Protection is reminding them of the financial reimbursement they might be entitled to.
It is not entirely clear why Sunwing has cancelled such a high number of flights lately. Experts have begun questioning Sunwing’s sustainability as the airline’s operations continue to decrease.
Saskatchewan’s NDP opposition has stepped in, sending a letter to the premier hoping for change to be created. The provincial government has stated that these issues fall under the federal government’s responsibility, and added that it expects the federal government to hold airlines accountable.
As the case moves up the political ladder, it is certainly fair to suggest that the future of this situation is up in the air.