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

A call for donations to fight COVID-19 in Langley and elsewhere

B.C. hasn’t run out of protective gear, but supplies are getting low

Memorial bench for Langley teen who died in park

Carson Crimeni is remembered with an anti-bullying message

VIDEO: Viral signs of the times appear on Langley sidewalks

Encouraging words during a time of crisis

Sunday Stories

Original works by Langley authors are published by Langley Advance Times every weekend

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

QUIZ: How much do you know about the Olympics?

Put your knowledge to the test with these 12 questions

B.C. announces $3M for food banks to increase capacity during COVID-19

It is not clear how much of the money will flow towards Greater Victoria food banks

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

World COVID-19 update: U.S. expects 100,000 deaths; Oregon declares disaster

Comprehensive update of world news for Sunday, March 19.

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

‘There is community’: B.C. councillor welcomes new baby into world amid COVID-19 pandemic

‘I realize there’s much more than fear and worry… there is hope, there is new life’: Jason Lum

Most Read