Travel chaos fixes at Pearson Airport in Mississauga, other airports on the way: Alghabra

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Published January 12, 2023 at 4:50 pm

pearson airport
Photo by VOO QQQ

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is promising that fixes are on the way for a series of travel messes that angered tens of thousands of passengers at Pearson Airport in Mississauga and other Canadian airports in addition to those who took VIA trains over the holiday season.

Alghabra, who also serves as Mississauga Centre MP, committed to a continued effort to improving the travel sector during his hour-long testimony this afternoon (Jan. 12) at an emergency meeting of the House of Commons transportation committee convened to get answers to the holiday travel chaos at airports and with airlines over the holidays.

“Unfortunately, the circumstances many travellers faced this holiday season were completely unacceptable. I was incredibly concerned and frustrated to hear about those who were stranded, delayed or missed their holiday plans due to horrible travel conditions,” Alghabra told the committee hearing.

“The safety and efficiency of Canada’s aviation sector is a priority of mine. Upholding the rights of passengers is also a priority of mine. And supporting a competitive and resilient sector is also a priority of mine.”

Alghabra did note that progress has been made since last summer, when Pearson Airport was consistently ranked among the world’s worst airports for delayed/cancelled flights and huge lineups inside terminals. Lost luggage was also a source of frustration for many travellers.

He said the lengthy lineups that were commonplace at Pearson last summer weren’t as bad during the just-passed holiday season.

“But we still have more to do. Of course we do,” Alghabra added, noting he hopes to announce much-needed changes and introduce legislation in the coming months.

Alghabra has vowed to bring in legislation to strengthen the country’s existing Air Passenger Protection Regulations, a set of standards that allows travellers to request compensation when their flights are delayed or cancelled for reasons such as scheduling.

From long hours waiting on hold to sleepless nights on airport floors and desperate scrambles to rebook flights and find missing bags, it was a holiday travel season that no one had on their wish list, but that thousands of people got.

Now, Canadians will hear top travel executives and the federal transport minister explain what went wrong, and what might be done to avoid a repeat.

Leaders from the country’s major airports and airlines are among witnesses who appeared starting today (Jan. 12) during the emergency meeting of the House of Commons transportation committee.

The meeting kicked off with a panel of representatives from Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing Airlines.

Sunwing, a vacation-destination airline, has apologized for leaving hundreds stranded in Mexico after cancelling its flights due to a winter storm that swept across parts of Canada in the lead-up to Christmas Day, and then axing trips out of Saskatchewan until early February due to “extenuating circumstances.”

But it’s not Mother Nature MPs are taking issue with. Rather, it’s the communication — or lack thereof — that companies had with passengers whose plans were upended.

And while Sunwing Airlines president Len Corrado is scheduled to appear, neither Air Canada nor WestJet will be represented by a president or CEO, with the airlines instead sending vice-presidents to testify.

“Canadian travellers who were mistreated by airlines deserve an explanation. The very least that these rich CEOs can do is show up, explain what went wrong and show Canadians how they’re going to do better,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement to The Canadian Press.

–with files from The Canadian Press

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