Air Canada flight disruptions stemming from a technical issue are continuing Friday, the airline warns, after a day that saw trips delayed and cancelled across the company’s network.
Air Canada said in a statement Thursday to Global News that a “temporary technical issue” with the system used to communicate with and monitor aircraft was causing delays and, in some cases, cancellations.
While a spokesperson said later that afternoon that the issue had “begun to stabilize,” the airline said in an update on Twitter Friday morning that passengers should expect ongoing delays as “rollover effects” from the disruption stretch on.
The airline advised passengers to check the status of their flight before heading to the airport.
The delays came a week after Air Canada’s flights were grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. over another issue it described as a problem with the communicator system. That stoppage lasted a little under an hour.
An Air Canada spokesperson said the issues on May 25 affected the same system but were “unrelated” to Thursday’s disruptions.
The airline has been working with a third-party supplier to upgrade the system, the spokesperson said.
“Air Canada will continue to work with the manufacturer to ensure stability in the system in the future.”
Are passengers owed compensation for the delays?
Since the issue affects Air Canada’s own system, the delays should be considered within the airline’s control and therefore make passengers eligible for some compensation, according to Gabor Lukacs, president of the consumer advocacy group Air Passenger Rights.
Lukacs said in an email to Global News on Thursday that Air Canada might claim that the technical malfunction represents a “safety issue” to avoid paying a lump-sum compensation to passengers, but that argument doesn’t pass muster to him based on what the company has said publicly about the disruptions.
Per the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), the amount that large airlines like Air Canada must pay to passengers depends on how delayed an individual is from arriving at their destination compared to the arrival time cited on their ticket.
A delay of more than three hours but fewer than six results in $400 compensation; a six-to-nine-hour delay is worth $700; and anything longer than that results in $1,000 compensation, according to the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Lukacs said that even if Air Canada does use the safety issue argument, the airline still must provide meals, accommodations and rebookings on competing airlines if the carrier is unable to provide alternate travel accommodations within nine hours of the schedule departure.
An Air Canada spokesperson said in a statement to Global News that the airline has “put in place a flexible policy for those who wish to change their travel plans at no cost.”
“As far as compensation, we deal with our customers directly because each case is different, however our policy is to always abide by the requirements of the APPR,” the spokesperson said.
Air Canada passenger hit by both delays
Passengers took to Twitter on Thursday morning to describe hours-long delays and being unable to get off planes stuck on the tarmac.
Julie MacArthur, an associate professor at Royal Roads University in B.C., told Global News that both of her flights into and out of Ontario this past week were affected by the pair of Air Canada outages.
It took MacArthur and her four-year-old child 25 hours to fly from Victoria to Ottawa on May 25 amid the delays, she said. That comes after her mother-in-law’s flight from Dublin to B.C. was cancelled hours before takeoff in light of the WestJet pilot strike.
On Thursday morning, MacArthur and her child were then stuck on the tarmac before departure at Toronto Pearson Airport for nearly three and a half hours before being told everyone on board would have to deplane.
MacArthur told Global News via a DM on Twitter that after having to sleep on chairs waiting for a connecting flight at Pearson last week, her child felt afraid to have to deplane again.
She noted that staff and pilots have been apologetic about the frustrating disruption, providing water and eventually granola bars to affected passengers. Her child even got to visit the cockpit, which MacArthur said was a silver lining to the whole situation.
MacArthur said she is “not optimistic” about alternate flights or different routing to get her family home given last week’s disruptions and is hopeful her original flight eventually “gets off the ground.”
As of 12:30 p.m. ET, MacArthur said passengers had reboarded the flight to Victoria in hopes of departing.