Wintery conditions on the West Coast left dozens of Calgary- and Edmonton-bound passengers stuck at the Abbotsford Airport on New Year’s Eve.
However, what frustrated many of the passengers is the service they received from the discount airfare company NewLeaf Travel.
“Waited seven hours (at the Edmonton International Airport) for them to get in but nobody contacted us,” Sandra Greer said. Her daughter, Stephanie Campbell, was one of dozens of NewLeaf passengers stuck in Abbotsford overnight.
According to NewLeaf, mechanical trouble on one of its planes grounded travellers headed to Calgary. Meantime, a flight to Edmonton was cancelled when the de-icing machine, owned and operated by the Abbotsford Airport, broke down.
“We were on the airplane for an hour and 45 minutes before they took us off it,” passenger Campbell said. “They didn’t provide taxi cabs or hotels. It wasn’t their concern. ‘Go find your own hotel on New Year’s Eve’.”
“Eight hours and no food, no water was offered. NewLeaf couldn’t care less,” Campbell said. “They said nothing at all.”
“Employees hid in the back and refused to talk to us.”
The Winnipeg-based low-cost air travel company started flying out of Calgary in mid-December.
Flights are operated by Flair Air and, according to its Domestic Charter Passenger Tariff, passengers should be given meal vouchers after a four-hour delay and hotel accommodation after eight hours.
“As I understand from the reports, none of that was happening,” Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate, said. “They may say that they are a budget airline but they still have to do what’s in the tariff.”
“If they ignore you or don’t pay compensation for your experience, you can take Flair to small claims courts,” Lukacs said.
NewLeaf said it tried to serve passengers food but that it couldn’t find any companies willing to deliver in the storm.
Abbotsford police were called in when at least one traveller became unruly.
WATCH BELOW: NewLeaf passengers stuck when de-icing machine breaks down in Abbotsford. Tanya Beja reports.
Eventually, NewLeaf arranged buses for passengers to travel to Vancouver International Airport.
“We know this was not the way any one person wished to spend their New Year’s Eve and the first few hours of 2017, but NewLeaf worked tirelessly to find solutions in very trying circumstances,” a NewLeaf spokesperson said in a statement. “We have encouraged customers to contact NewLeaf and we will be happy to work with them.”
NewLeaf said customer service representatives were with the passengers the entire time and at no point were passengers stranded.
With files from Global’s Tanya Beja