Transport Minister Omar Al-Ghabra said at the opening of the Commons Commission on Jan. 12 that his government was not “hiding” and would take responsibility for travel disruptions that occurred during the holidays, but He largely blamed the weather…and the industry.
“What do you want me to blame for? The weather or Sunwing’s bad decisions?” Alghabra hit back at Conservative MP Luc Berthold.
Berthold asked Algabra where he was from December 23 to January 5, when “a Canadian was sleeping on the airport floor.”
“Minister, didn’t you think it was serious enough to intervene personally? You could have shown leadership, picked up the phone and called the airline called the airport,” Berthold said. said.
The commission has heard that Algabra has not been in direct contact with the airlines, and thousands of flights have been canceled, resulting in chaos that left passengers stranded abroad or sitting on the runway for long periods of time on their planes. while.
Alghabra spoke directly to Sunwing only on January 5th.
The minister defended his records, saying he was involved all along and that his office was in daily contact with airlines and airports.
“I have also released a public statement expressing my dissatisfaction with what is happening. No airline, including Sunwing, was ignorant of my feelings and my expectations,” he said. said.
Alghabra also refuted claims that the travel disruptions experienced last summer, when Canada’s airports ranked among the worst in the world, were somehow related to what happened recently.
“We didn’t see the long queues we saw at CATSA last summer. [Canadian Air Transport Security Authority] and CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency] screening line,” he said.
NDP MP Taylor Bachrach accused the government of treating airlines with “children’s gloves” and “walking above all analogues of passenger rights in this country”.
Alghabra praised the government’s efforts to pass legislation to protect the rights of passengers and said it was the responsibility of airlines to protect these rights.
“I would argue that protecting the rights of passengers is also the government’s responsibility. Unfortunately, the Air Passenger Protection regime you have created has major loopholes that allow the 747 to fly through these issues.” replied Bachrach.
Bachrach asked Sunwing’s president Len Corrado at the morning meeting about an email the company’s customers received stating that their troubles were not covered.
Corrado said some travelers would not be compensated if their flights were arbitrated outside the airline’s control.
How airlines handle complaints in the coming weeks will test the current system of already serious backlogs.
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), which handles disputes between passengers and airlines, has 33,000 cases to handle.
Sunwing executive Andrew Dawson told the commission earlier in the day that the company has received 7,000 complaints related to vacation travel to date.
Alghabra said it had received promises from Sunwing to aggressively compensate customers to avoid filing complaints with CTA. This may contradict what Corrado previously told the Commission.
While praising the government’s efforts to protect passenger rights, the minister identified three improvements to speed up the CTA’s complaints process.
Alghabra said bureaucracy could be reduced, airline rules could be clarified to reduce the number of complaints leading to CTAs, and more resources needed to be provided to CTAs. rice field.
He also said it could bring about legislative changes if necessary to strengthen the rules.
Airlines have previously told the commission that they support a review of the law but would include sharing responsibility for delays and cancellations.
WestJet Vice President Andrew Gibbons said: “We do not believe additional penalties against the only accountable group should be a priority at this time.