Transport minister, airlines to appear at committee today to explain holiday travel chaos

MPs are set to question Canada’s transport minister, airlines and airports authorities over the travel chaos that erupted over the holidays.

Hundreds of air passengers were stranded during the holiday season after airlines canceled or delayed flights due to a major storm that battered much of Canada over the Christmas period.

Although the House of Commons is not currently in session, MPs met on the Transport Committee on Monday and unanimously supported calling witnesses to discuss the travel debacle.

Executives from Sunwing Airlines, Air Canada and WestJet will be the first to appear when the meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. They will be followed by representatives of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, Montreal Airports and Vancouver Airport Authority.

Conservative transportation critic Mark Strall told CBC’s News Network On Wednesday, the committee said it wanted answers for Canadian travelers.

“The system has failed to deal with any adversity, so we want accountability,” he told host Hannah Tibideaux.

Shetral said accountability starts at the top with Transport Minister Omar Al-Ghabra.

Al-Ghabra will appear in person before the committee on Thursday afternoon. Today’s committee hearing is scheduled to last until 4:30 p.m. ET.

Transport Minister Omar Al-Ghabra gets up during questioning in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, December 1, 2022.
Transport Minister Omar Al-Ghabra gets up during grilling in the House of Commons on Thursday, December 1, 2022. (Justin Tang / The Canadian Press)

During the festive period, Al-Ghabra repeatedly described the travel situation as “unacceptable”. Last week, he said he was looking into air passenger protection regulations.

“This past summer and this winter we’ve seen certain instances where passengers felt they were not being communicated, their rights were not upheld,” he told CBC News. “So we need to strengthen the bases.”

Jeff Morrison, president of the National Airline Council of Canada, told CBC News power politics that other entities, such as airports and navigation service providers, should be held accountable when disturbances occur.

“The only way we can create a better system overall that reduces disruption is if we put in greater accountability, greater standards of service for every entity within the air travel system,” Morrison told flight attendant Kathryn Cullen. “Right now, only airlines are subject to any kind of accountability.”

watch | The airline association blames the weather for the holiday travel chaos

The airline association blames the weather for the holiday travel chaos

“What we experienced this holiday season was really a once in a generation, I would argue once in a lifetime, weather event,” said Geoff Morrison, president and CEO of the National Airline Council of Canada.

air travelers She began experiencing an unusual number of flight disturbances Back in the spring, when demand for air travel began to return to pre-pandemic levels. Many passengers have accused airlines of circumventing compensation rules that have been in place since 2019.

These rules require the airline to compensate passengers when a flight is delayed or canceled for a reason within the control of the airline. In cases of weather delays, airlines are required to keep passengers informed and rebook them. If the reservation cannot be rebooked within 48 hours, the airline is required to provide a refund.

But the Canada Transport Agency (CTA), which is responsible for enforcing these compensation rules, has been grappling with a backlog of more than 30,000 passenger complaints.

Officials from the CTA are also scheduled to appear before the committee on Thursday afternoon.

MPs have also agreed to hear from VIA and Canadian National Rail (CN), but they will not appear on Thursday.

Hundreds of rail passengers ended up trapped on Via Rail trains running between Windsor and Ont. and Quebec City after closing stretches of the trail on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.