30 Cancelled Swoop Flights

30 Cancelled Swoop Flights
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30 cancelled Swoop flights leave customers bitter. Will passenger rights coming Monday help?

swoop flights

Swoop, the ultra-low cost carrier launched by WestJet, said it cancelled 30 flights between July 1 and 10 due to unscheduled maintenance. (WestJet)

The abrupt cancellation of 30 Swoop flights over the first 10 days in July sparked anger and confusion, with some customers paying out-of-pocket to salvage travel plans.

New federal air passenger protection regulations, which roll out Monday, aim to cut down on customer confusion by laying out clear compensation amounts and treatment standards for mishaps involving all airlines. But rules covering cancelled and delayed flights won’t take effect until December. The regulations also face a legal battle from some airlines trying to quash them in court.

In the meantime, upset Swoop passengers have launched their own battles. So far this month, the Canadian Transportation Agency has received 19 complaints concerning cancelled Swoop flights.

The ultra-low-cost-carrier, which is owned by WestJet, said the cancellations were caused by unscheduled aircraft maintenance.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said Swoop spokesperson Karen McIsaac in an email. “We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment we have caused and continue to direct our efforts to assisting those travellers that have been affected.”

jamie abram@jamie_abram
Working round the clock but not on Sunday.
Booking me 7 days from now is not acceptable. Will you be covering the additional travel expense

Martin R@froggerlax

Yeah seriously. Call centre closed on the day they cancel flights. Only options are to accept the rebook or cancel outright. How about @FlySwoop find everyone flights to get us home when they said they would.

That didn’t work for the small business owner who needed to return home to Komoka, Ont., for work. But he couldn’t call Swoop to complain — because it was Sunday and the call centre was closed. He did send an email, but received no reply.

“It’s very, very bad business practice,” said Romanowski. “No communication, no conversation, no answering, nothing.”

In desperation, his wife, Hanna, used up more than 22,000 Aeroplan rewards miles to rebook him on an Air Canada flight the next day.

“It should be better back-up or better service to get people back to where they are going,” she said.

swoop flights

When Radek Romanowki’s Swoop flight was cancelled, his wife, Hanna, spent more than 22,000 Aeroplan rewards miles to get him back home quickly to Komoka, Ont. (Submitted by Hanna Romanowki)

Kevin Blenkhorn found out his Swoop flight was cancelled when he and his wife showed up at the Hamilton airport on July 7 to take their return flight to Edmonton.

“I was not happy,” said Blenkhorn who lives in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. Swoop had rebooked him on a flight that departed six days later, but Blenkhorn needed to get home immediately to return to his mining job.

He found a flight leaving the next morning on WestJet  — Swoop’s owner — totalling $1,462 for two last-minute tickets. He was surprised that WestJet wouldn’t waive the cost.

“I called WestJet and they said, ‘Well, we really don’t have anything to do with [Swoop].'”

cancelled swoop flights

Kevin and Brenda Blenkhorn of Fort Sasktachewan, Alta., flew on Swoop to attend a golf tournament in Ontario. They found out at the airport that their return flight was cancelled. (Submitted by Kevin Blenkhorn)

Blenkhorn’s new booking cost him close to triple the price of his yet-to-be refunded Swoop tickets. Following the advice of a Swoop employee at the airport, he filed a claim with the airline, requesting reimbursement.

“Til the money’s in the bank, I’m not counting on anything,” he said.

What does Swoop owe passengers?

CBC News interviewed a total of four affected Swoop customers who each said they were unhappy with what was offered: a refund or a rebooking on a Swoop flight on a later date. Those are also the only options the airline publicly listed in tweets to complaining passengers.

However, for flight cancellations within its control, the airline’s current rule book — or tariffs — also lists another alternative: rebooking passengers on a different airline “in situations where other options have been deemed unacceptable.”

Carolina A@istutr

FlySwoop@FlySwoop

Travellers are being rebooked on the next available Swoop flight. If the alternate flight time provided is not suitable, travellers are able to self-manage bookings at http://flyswp.com/KFMedo  or cancel for a full refund. ^KS 2/2

CBC asked Swoop why many passengers weren’t also offered a rebooking on another airline.

“We are following what is stated in our tariffs,” said spokesperson McIsaac on Tuesday. “After rebooking on the next available Swoop flight, we are working on a case-by-case basis with travelers on alternate arrangements if the new flight time provided is not suitable.”

Consumer advocate John Lawford said — based on Swoop’s written rules — it could be left open to interpretation when precisely it had to offer affected passengers seats on another airline.

He believes Canada’s new air passenger regulations will help cut through the ambiguity.

“This whole thing is set up to be consumer friendly, easy to understand, consistent, transparent,” said Lawford, executive director of the Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

However, some critics say the regulations aren’t tough enough because, among other complaints, passengers on “small” airlines have fewer rights.

For example, the rules allow small carriers — such as Swoop — to pay out lower compensation and offer fewer travel options when flights are cancelled.

But Lawford said at least passengers will be able to easily access all the rules before they choose an airline, and make their decision accordingly.

Court battle takes flight

The air passenger protection regulations also face a legal challenge.

On June  2, 17 applicants tied to the airline industry — including Air Canada, Porter Airlines and the International Air Transport Association — argued in a Federal Court of Appeal filing that the regulations are “invalid” because they contravene international standards.

Lawford said the new rules will still roll out Monday. But he fears some airlines may refuse to comply while the case is before the courts.

“They’ll hide behind their lawsuit.”

All of Canada’s major airlines, including Air Canada and Porter told CBC News they will comply with the current regulations.

So, why would Westjet, who owns Swoop not re-book on their flights and maintain good relations?

Don’t they care? Apparently not!
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