Canadian air passengers fed up with last minute flight cancellations

It was a frustrating weekend for anyone flying Southwest Airlines in the United States as more than 300 flights were cancelled and about 1,400 flights were delayed.

Last-minute cancellations have also been plaguing some Canadian airlines and passengers say it creates havoc as they try to scramble to rebook their travel plans. 

"For our family it was devastating news," Pickering, Ont. woman Carol Everitt told CTV News Toronto.

Everitt was flying with family members to British Columbia to take her late husband Martin’s ashes to the west coast to fulfill his last wishes. 

Their trip was planned for late August, but hours before they were to go to the airport they received a notice that their WestJet flight had been cancelled.

"They didn't say it was because of COVID, they didn't say the plane didn't arrive, they didn't say anything just 'Sorry there is nothing we can do,'" said Everitt.

While WestJet said they could go on another flight the next day, Everitt said she and her two family members ended up having to fly with Air Canada buying three tickets for $3,600.

"We had to book it and go because too many things were already arranged with others who also planned to be there," said Everitt.

Vanessa Stokes-Archer of Milton, Ont. flew to Halifax with her mother and twins and was to be joined a short time later by her husband, but when he went to board his Flair Airline flight it was cancelled while he was waiting at the airport.

"His flight was at 12:40 p.m. and he was told it was delayed a half an hour and then 20 minutes before that new departure time they said it was cancelled," said Stokes-Archer.

With no other Flair flight available for days, he had to search for another flight, cut his trip short and ended up paying $600 for a ticket with another airline. 

"They offered no way to get him there and no compensation to help him," said Stokes-Archer.

Gabor Lukacs, president of Air Passenger Rights, said he is aware that flights are being cancelled in Canada because planes aren't full or there are staffing shortages. 

"Airlines have been over-promising to the public. They have been selling tickets on flights which they don't really have the crew to operate. As a result they are cancelling flights and then trying to blame it on circumstances outside their control, which is meritless," Lukacs told CTV News Toronto.

Lukacs said when flights are cancelled passengers deserve compensation, but he said many airlines don't want to pay it.

"The laws are there, but they are not being enforced, they are not being followed," said Lukacs. 

CTV News Toronto reached out to WestJet and Flair Airlines and asked why their flights were cancelled, but did not receive a response.

If your flight is cancelled in Canada, you could be eligible for up to $1,000. Lukacs advises passengers to take down as much information as possible, including added expenses and approach the airline for compensation. 

Lukacs said if passengers are not compensated, they should consider going to small claims court.