We’ve all been there. Sitting in your seat, belt fastened, waiting for the airplane to take off. An overly-cheerful voice comes on the intercom, informing you the flight’s been delayed.
Patience wanes. Babies cry. Bladders fill. Connections are missed. Frustration grows.
After being parked on the tarmac for an hour or more, some people would just rather get off the plane. But, is that really an option? What are your rights as a passenger? What are the most common reasons flights are delayed anyway?
“Bad weather is the number one cause right now,” said Nikola Berube, AMA travel director of sales and service. She explained that one delay at one airport can start a snowball effect on other flights and locations.
In December, a Calgary-bound plane made a scheduled stop in Hamilton to refuel. However, passengers said they spent eight hours stuck on the tarmac before they were let off. One person became so frustrated they called 911.
Sunwing said the plane could not taxi to the runway because snow and ice had accumulated. The company said deteriorating weather conditions made it hard for crews to attach a ramp to the aircraft.
“It’s not common but it does happen,” Berube said. “It can happen on any airline.”
Berube says the U.S. has Department of Transportation regulations that stipulate airlines must do everything in their ability to avoid lengthy tarmac delays. Unless there are poor weather conditions or it is unsafe to de-plane passengers, airlines can be subject to large fines.
“The airplane and the airline is trying to hold passengers onboard because that plane could get cleared for take-off at any time. If you take a plane into the airport and everybody leaves, it’s very difficult to get everybody back on the plane,” Berube said.
When it comes to delays onboard the plane, Berube says most major Canadian airlines will:
In 2009, Canada’s largest carriers (Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat) agreed to the code and adjusted their tariffs to address flight and tarmac delays, cancellations, overbooking and lost or damaged baggage.
“There’s nothing regulated in Canada,” Berube said. “There are regulations in the U.S that do specify that you need to provide water and snacks if delayed four to six hours.”
All airlines have a tariff or Contract of Carriage – the terms you agree to when buying a ticket – that deal with how they deal with situations like delays, offering food and drink, and when (and what kind of) compensation is offered.
Most major carriers offer compensation when delays exceed six hours, but it all depends on the length of they delay and it varies by airline. Usually, it comes in the form of a food, hotel or flight voucher.
“The number one piece of advice is be patient. Be understanding. This isn’t being done to ruin your holiday, but really it’s being done to make sure the plane is ready to take off as soon as it’s cleared.”
You can lessen the impact of a delay by preparing:
If you’re not satisfied with how an airline handled a delay situation, you can submit a complaint in writing within 30 days to the company outlining your request for an explanation and/or compensation.
If you’re not satisfied with the company’s response, you can submit a formal complaint to the Canadian Transport Agency asking for help finding resolution.
© 2016 Shaw Media