A Regina musician was one of many passengers who were given the alternative to take a bus ride back to Saskatchewan after WestJet cancelled its flight to Regina due to aircraft maintenance.
However, it was not the case for everyone. On Feb. 26, 2023, Chris Henderson was on his way home to Regina from performing a gig in Grande Prairie.
He was given the news in Calgary that WestJet cancelled flights to Regina and he was offered a Sunday night bus ride back, but he refused to take the bus.
“I asked them, ‘Will I be reimbursed for my flight if I take this flight?’ and I was told no so then I said, ‘Well I’m not taking the bus,'” he said.
“I’m not taking a nine-hour bus ride — it seemed like a pretty wild scenario.”
Henderson waited in customer service for an hour and was directed to pay for his hotel room and he would be reimbursed at a later time.
Instead, he refused and decided to wait for an opportunity which he was fortunate with.
“I was lucky. I was able to get on a flight, but I was flying solo,” he said. “I was talking to families and couples and (they) were told they were rebooked for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and there (were) no rental cars to available in Calgary.
“So, I understand why they lined up the bus just to get people home, because there was no other option.”
That was the case for a family of four who were on a family holiday in Cancun, Mexico.
“(There was) no indication when we left Cancun that there was going to be an issue,” said Shawna Mathieson.
“We went to go get our luggage because we actually tried to go rent a car and checked through a couple of different agencies … (we) went up there to get (a rental), and they said, ‘Oh, sorry, we’re sold out.’
“There have been way too many flight cancellations. All the cars (were) gone.”
The Mathieson family had no choice but to take the long bus ride and arrived in Regina after 2 a.m. Monday.
“We would definitely hope, frankly, to get our full dollars back for the ticket that we paid. We did not pay for a bus ticket. We’re very disappointed in that,” said Mathieson.
“You would think that they would have a contingency plan if one of their planes have an issue like that to accommodate — especially a full flight of people — without having to get on a bus.
“They’re an airline. So, we would expect to fly home, not drive.”
In an emailed response, a WestJet spokesperson apologized to guests who were impacted by the flight cancellation due to unscheduled aircraft maintenance.
“Unfortunately, re-accommodation options were limited due to the high demand for travel over the weekend and significant weather events across Vancouver and Vancouver Island which caused compounding operational impacts and limited aircraft availability.
“In order to best support impacted guests in reaching their destination as quickly as possible, ground transportation was arranged to provide an immediate travel option for those who were unable to wait for an alternative flight option.”
Air Passenger Rights stated in an email response that WestJet broke the passengers’ rights by failing to provide the passengers with alternate flights instead of bus tickets.
“WestJet was required to provide the passengers with rebooking on its own flight within nine hours or rebooking on flights of other airlines,” stated Gabor Lukacs.
“If that required staying in Calgary for the night, the airline also owed them hotel/accommodation.
“On top of it, believe they are owed $1,000/passenger as no alternative flights were provided at all.
“While the cancellation of their flight may have been due to unscheduled maintenance … the failure to provide them with a flight at all had nothing to do with maintenance issues.”
It is not known if WestJet will be compensating customers or not.