Transport committee to meet over request to probe holiday travel chaos – National


Parliamentarians are meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss whether to open a study into the travel fiasco that affected Canadians over the winter holiday period.

The standing committee on transport, infrastructure and communities is going to be discussing the request from several members for it to launch a study on travel delays and the treatment of air and rail passengers, after thousands of Canadians faced cancellations and delays due to poor weather.

Liberal committee chair Peter Schiefke made the request and will be leading the meeting. He says he wants Sunwing and Via Rail before the committee to answer questions about their handling of the winter storm travel disruptions last month, calling the treatment “unacceptable.”

The meeting on Monday is expected to see members of the committee discuss the request for a study and debate a list of potential witnesses to call and give testimony.

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In an exclusive interview with Global News Thursday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said, if asked, he would testify before the committee on the travel disruptions.

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This comes as hundreds of Canadian travellers were left stranded in Mexico and other sunny destinations, after a major winter storm over Christmas disrupted operations.

After Sunwing cancelled flights, some Canadians described being shuffled between hotels in Mexico, sometimes arriving to find there were no rooms booked for them. They said Sunwing officials passed along inaccurate and incomplete information about when they might be able to head home.

On Thursday, Sunwing said it had completed all recovery flights related to the holiday disruption and apologized for “letting our customers down”.

“We are astutely aware that, for too many Canadians, we failed to live up to that promise this holiday season,” Sunwing Travel Group CEO Stephen Hunter and Sunwing Airlines president Len Corrado said in a joint statement on Thursday

“We had clear failures in execution, particularly in responding to weather-related delays and the aftermath of severe weather disruptions, which limited our ability to reposition aircraft and crew to other airports to help alleviate the backlog in flights.”

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Click to play video: 'Travel chaos: What recourse are passengers seeking from airlines?'

Travel chaos: What recourse are passengers seeking from airlines?

Meanwhile, a Saskatchewan law firm is looking at filing a potential class action lawsuit against Sunwing.

In a statement on its website, Merchant Law Group LLP said that it is evaluating the potential for class action litigation on behalf of Canadians who experienced a flight cancellation or delays longer than nine hours that can’t be attributed to weather issues or aircraft safety.

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The firm added that it’s also looking for anyone who had a trip cancellation, rerouting, or delay longer than nine hours due to Sunwing’s blanket cancellations in Saskatchewan.

Sunwing has also halted flights from Saskatchewan until early February because of “extenuating circumstances,” drawing the ire of political leaders and passengers.

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In addition to the airline cancellations, VIA Rail customers also experienced significant disruptions over the holidays as a winter storm slammed Ontario and Quebec.

— with files from Rachel Gilmore, Aaron D’Andrea and The Canadian Press 

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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