Boeing 737 MAX 8 bans — What Canadian travellers should know
On Tuesday, the European Union and other countries said the aircraft cannot fly over their airspace. Other countries have also taken action since Sunday’s accident, forbidding airlines from operating the plane.
While Canada is not among the countries grounding or banning the jet, moves by other countries impact Canadian airlines and travellers.
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau is set to hold a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the matter.
Here’s what Canadians should know:
How does this affect Canadian airlines?
Canadian airlines Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing Airlines fly 41 planes of the type that crashed in Ethiopia.
Air Canada has 24, WestJet flies 13 and Sunwing has four.
In a statement to Global News, Air Canada said it has cancelled some flights following the airspace bans.
“Air Canada will be cancelling its Halifax to London and St. John’s to London flights today and tomorrow,” the airline said.
“We are working to rebook impacted customers as soon as possible through our Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa hubs,” it added, noting that affected customers can contact the carrier directly for more information.
WATCH: Marc Garneau says Canada prepared to ground MAX 8 if need be
WestJet told Global News in an email Tuesday that none of its flights is currently affected by the airspace bans.
“While we do have MAX aircraft that fly to Gatwick and Paris from Halifax, these flights are seasonal and do not start until late April. There are no impacts at this time,” the statement read.
The airline added that it is in active discussions with Transport Canada, Boeing and other Canadian operators over the aircraft and will provide passengers updates if anything changes.
Sunwing Vacations announced on Tuesday night it was grounding its four MAX 8 planes.
“We are in the process of revising our flying schedule to accommodate the temporary removal of our MAX aircraft from service and we appreciate the patience of our retail partners and customers while we work to communicate these updates,” a company statement explained, adding it doesn’t expect services to be severely impacted.
What options do passengers have?
Gabor Lukacs, the founder of Canadian advocacy group Air Passenger Rights, explained to Global News that passengers’ options will vary depending on the situation.
He said that airlines may be scrambling to arrange alternate plans for travel in the next 48 hours, and this could lead to delays. In this case, he said airlines are obliged to put passengers on the next available flight.
“This became known today. If they cancel a flight today, it’s probably out of their control. It’s hard to shuffle things that quickly,” Lukacs said.
If delays extend for several days, however, this is a situation in which he says passengers could be eligible for compensation.
“If you cancel flights two weeks from now, that would be a whole separate issue,” he added.
WATCH: Garneau confident process will protect Canadians from similar accident
Lukacs noted that there is no law in Canada that allows passengers who feel unsafe flying on the Boeing planes to refuse to fly and demand a ticket refund.
“Legally, the passenger has no right to cancel their tickets or change their tickets,” he said.
Gabor said he hopes airlines will take this unique situation into account.
“I would call on airlines to let passengers change their flights if they do not feel comfortable flying on that particular model,” he said.
Flight Centre travel agency also confirmed that Canadian airlines are not waiving flight-change or cancellation fees for such passengers. The stance from Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. comes amid a wave of requests from worried travellers who have, so far, been excluded from goodwill policies.
Some Canadians voiced concern over this on social media Tuesday, calling on airlines to provide more answers.
Why hasn’t Canada grounded or banned the planes?
While Garneau said on Monday that Canada would not ground the Boeing aircraft, he changed his tone a day later.
Garneau indicated on Tuesday that Canada is now considering grounding the planes, if needed.
“I have directed my group of experts to be ready for all possibilities, including a decision to ground the MAX 8,” Garneau told reporters.
The minister added that he has cancelled all his meetings for the day in order to come to a decision.
Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada, is calling on Transport Canada to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
“We believe that Canadian consumers should be protected,” he told Global News.
“In the best case, by having these planes grounded. In the second place, they should be giving out information allowing Canadian passengers to seek out other transportation without surcharges.”
WATCH: Global fears grow over Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 planes
What is Boeing saying?
Boeing is standing by its plane amid the grounding and bans. On Tuesday, the company issued a statement saying it has “full confidence” in the aircraft.
“Based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators,” it said.
Boeing also confirmed Monday that it will deploy a software upgrade to the 737 MAX 8.
—With files from Global News reporters Andrew Russell and Morgan Smith, and The Canadian Press
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