Air passengers continue to share nightmare experiences with Canadian airlines several months after countries around the world relaxed their coronavirus travel restrictions.
Canada dropped its mandatory COVID-19 testing requirement for fully vaccinated travellers on April 1, allowing for greater ease of travel at airports and at the Canada-U.S. border.
In May, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which is the federal crown corporation responsible for all passenger security screening, said it was experiencing ongoing staffing shortages. While it made efforts to rectify the issues, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) noted that it was unclear when the situation would improve.
In July, Canadian airlines and airports claimed top spots in flight delays over the long weekend, notching more than nearly any other around the world.
But passengers had already been flooding airports in droves months before the rule was relaxed, creating chaos at airports around the world.
Many travellers have expressed frustration with individual airlines, placing the blame for poor reparations for travel losses squarely on the companies they purchased tickets from.
Locals react to Vancouver flights cancelled by Flair Airlines and Air Canada
A Vancouver man says he was stranded on the other side of the country after Air Canada cancelled and re-booked his flights. He also told Vancouver Is Awesome that he was "speechless" by the companies handling of the situation. Similarly, another Vancouver traveller said he was "absolutely disgusted" after receiving his bag over a month after his trip with Air Canada.
Frustrated Flair Airlines customers have also shared their stories with V.I.A., with several of them noting that their "re-booked" flights were made a week or longer after their original flight.
One woman says the airline ruined her "trip of the lifetime" after it cancelled her flight in "the eleventh hour" following a six-hour delay. As a result of the last-minute cancellation, she says she was "stranded" and forced to book a flight that cost four times the amount of her original ticket ($960 CAD instead of the original $250 CAD).
In a similar scenario, a Canadian air passenger claims she received "unacceptable" compensation after Flair cancelled her Vancouver flight at the last minute and re-booked her on one scheduled for a week later.
YVR delays continue months after coronavirus travel rules relaxed
Customers have expressed communal outrage over their financial losses and exasperating travel experiences in groups on Facebook. In particular, Canada's budget airlines, Swoop and Flair Airlines, continue to receive the lion's share of critique in these online forums — but Air Canada and WestJet aren't immune from critique, either.
One of the most frequented Facebook groups is called "Flair Airlines Nightmares" and has a staggering 6,800 members. Travellers share their stories and comment on other people's experiences daily, with many of them expressing sheer frustration with the low-cost carrier.
WestJet's discount carrier, Swoop, also has an equally large following of frustrated flyers in a group called "Fly-Swoop Not." The group also receives numerous horror stories from people who had their flights cancelled last minute or their baggage lost by the airline. Others share negative customer service experiences.
A private Facebook group called "Air Canada Sucks" offers a place for people to share their grievances with Canada's largest airline, while the significantly smaller, public group called "WestJet Dollars Expiry Dates" is a support group regarding expiring Westjet dollars (but people share some outrage there, too).
When asked about the recent backlash from customers and the existence of these online forums, Air Canada told V.I.A. that "the global air transport industry has been challenged due to issues with airports and third-party providers of such services as passenger screening, customs, and air navigation.
"We are working hard with these partners and government to resolve these issues as they are affecting the performance of airlines."
V.I.A. has also reached out to Swoop, Flair Airlines, and WestJet for comment.