WestJet apologizes after "horrendous" travel experience for Ottawa passengers
It was a travel nightmare that lasted 33 and a half hours.
"Absolutely horrendous," says Betty Clarke.
Clarke and her family were travelling with WestJet, returning from Mexico after a week-long vacation. They left their hotel at 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning, but didn't get home until 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.
It started on Saturday, when passengers on Westjet flight 2841 from Cancun to Ottawa were stuck on the tarmac for four and a half hours. In that time, Clarke says they were offered a glass of water and a bag of pretzels. After the wait, WestJet cancelled the flight for mechanical reasons.
The 150 passengers were taken off the plane and after a three hour wait, were loaded onto buses. They were supposed to be taken to a hotel for the night before flying out the next day. Instead, they were dropped in the parking lot of a hostel, which passengers describe as a "rat hole."
"My 7-year-old grandson got very hysterical because he was petrified he was never going to get home again," Clarke says. "He was throwing up, he was so scared."
Ottawa lawyer Chris Spiteri was also on the flight.
"WestJet seemed to abandon us," he says. Spiteri is considering a class action lawsuit against the airline, on behalf of everyone on the flight.
"It was quite frustrating, seeing kids being sick, kids crying," he says. "What they did was really quite wrong."
WestJet issued an apology to the passengers on Monday. The airline confirms the flight was cancelled because of a mechanical issue and acknowledged that "the service our guests were provided was clearly not up to the WestJet standards that we aspire to deliver."
In a statement, WestJet says passengers were offered accommodation and transportation along with meal vouchers, but "due to an error by our booking partner, some hotel rooms were not available once guests arrived at the properties so some guests were forced to book accommodation elsewhere on their own."
"We understand the frustration these guests experienced and are committed to working with each of them to provide the appropriate reimbursement for accommodation expenses along with a gesture of goodwill for their time and frustration, the statement says.
"WestJet says all passengers were able to depart the following day. It's also in the process of contacting all the passengers affected by the mistake.
Update 6:00 p.m. Tuesday
Westjet has issued a new statement to CTV News Tuesday. The airline says it's conducting a full investigation into what occurred.
It also offered a more detailed explanation of what happened:
"Following the boarding and pushback of the flight, a mechanical issue occurred twice while in the lineup to depart. For the safety of guests and crew, the issue necessitated a return to the gate for inspection and maintenance both times. With the second issue, guests were informed that the flight would be cancelled. The aircraft was moving almost the entire time, meaning that services like water and snacks could only be offered when it was parked. We do understand how this rolling delay followed by the cancellation was an extremely tough situation for guests to endure."
Some passengers have contacted CTV News, saying WestJet has offered to cover all of their expenses and give them a $100 voucher for a future flight.