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Worried about flight delays? Here's how to track airline reliability

And get some tips on getting compensated if your flight is late.

Travellers might find it difficult to choose between several low-cost options when booking flights in and out of Vancouver. However, an online tool can help them decide if a bargain ticket is worth the risk.

With tickets from the Lower Mainland starting at prices as low as $9, many routes cost significantly less than they did in past decades. Yet some low-cost options might cost much more once seats, carry-on baggage, checked luggage, or other fees are added...and that's only if the flight takes off when it is supposed to. 

During the pandemic, scores of travellers shared horror stories about flights to or from Vancouver International Airport (YVR), including massive delays, last-minute cancellations, and airlines refusing to reimburse or book them on a flight. 

The travel landscape has improved drastically over the past year or two but some airlines struggle with on-time performance and cancellations and some routes appear to experience more issues. 

How can I determine which airline has the best track record on a particular route?

Online tools like FlightAware and Flightera can help travellers decide what airline has the best track record on a particular route. 

For example, a flight departing YVR for John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on Sept. 9 costs US$259 with JetBlue (see slide two). To find its on-time performance, travellers can enter the flight number "B6604" into Flightera's Search Database. 

The results under "General Route Info" show the flight is delayed an average of twice weekly and has a 71 per cent on-time performance (see slides three and four). 

On average, 25 per cent of all its YVR-JFK flights are delayed; the average delay is 187 minutes, according to Flightera.

Since it is the only airline providing direct service between YVR and JFK, no results show in the comparison area. 

Other routes between YVR and the U.S. have numerous direct options, including flights to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Air Canada, WestJet, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Flair Airlines fly this route. 

Flair Airlines provides the cheapest option on the route, with direct service at 7 a.m. on flight #F81888. On average, eight flights are delayed weekly with an 88 per cent on-time performance.

On average, nine per cent of all flights are delayed; the average delay is 89 minutes, according to Flightera. 

Travellers can also compare Flair's flight delays with other airlines per week, month, and year (see slide seven).

Air passenger rights for late flights 

Flair now qualifies as a "large carrier" in Canada. The ultra-low-cost carrier transported over two million passengers per annum over the last two years, allowing it to meet Canada's criteria of a "large carrier" instead of a "small carrier," according to the definition in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR).

Under Canadian law, large airlines must pay passengers more compensation than small ones. For example, large carriers must pay them $400 if passengers arrive late at their destination by over three hours but under six, while small ones must pay out $125. 

Large airlines must re-book a customer on the next available flight within nine hours of departure time, or on a flight of an airline with which they have a commercial agreement. 

If the airline cannot re-book its customer within nine hours, it must re-book them on a flight, as soon as possible, on a flight operated by any airline. The new flight:

  • must take any reasonable route out of the same airport to the traveller's destination, which may mean the airline buys a ticket from a competing airline, and
  • the flight must depart within 48 hours of the original flight's departure time