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

UPDATE: Undercover video shows alleged animal abuse at Abbotsford egg farm

One employee wearing logo of Chilliwack chicken-catching company already facing abuse charges

Speed carving event on Friday and Saturday in Memorial Park

Organizers are keeping event small, physically distanced and stocked with sanitizer

Mission man who nearly died from COVID-19 at Abbotsford hospital reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breathe

Weekend food truck fest, fire department demo a success for cash-strapped Sunshine Valley fire department

BC Day long weekend event included vehicle extrication demo, food trucks, firefighting games for kids

Lavender hand sanitizer sale raises cash for Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Golf course and lavender farm partner up to support health care in the Fraser Valley

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Wings and Wheels set for weekend lift-off in Abbotsford

Fundraiser to raise money for Crystal Gala Foundation and the fight against breast cancer

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Most Read