Skip to main content

Flair Airlines apologizes, compensates B.C. passenger after failing to follow new law

Share

When university student Jessica Quiring arrived at Calgary airport on Sunday, she learned her Flair Airlines flight to Abbotsford had been cancelled. She was flying home to the Fraser Valley for reading break, and was shocked to learn the rebooking Flair was offering would leave two days later.

"So I hopped on a call with the 1-800 number, and I was on hold for an hour," said Quiring.

While she waited, she familiarized herself with Canada’s new Air Passenger Protection Regulations.

"The law is crystal clear," said Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate. "A large carrier has to re-book passengers on a competitor airline if they are unable to book the passenger within nine hours on their own network.”

Armed with this information, Quiring was finally able to speak to a Flair agent on the phone.

“I said, 'You guys need to book me on a competitor's airline.' And they simply refused to. I asked multiple times, I read word for word from the website, and they said, 'Sorry, there’s nothing we can do to help you,'” Quiring said.

Unwilling to wait two days, she paid out of pocket for a Lynx Air flight to Vancouver, and posted a video about the ordeal to TikTok.

“I was not expecting anyone to really see it, it was close friends and family, but it has generated almost a million views, which is absolutely insane. And multiple other people have shared their stories, shared how this has happened to them,” said Quiring.

After the TikTok went viral, Flair reached out to the 21-year-old.

“They said the agent was in the wrong and was mistaken, and that I should have gotten a flight ticket with a competitor airline given to me,” said Quiring.

In a statement to CTV News, Flair’s director of support Leena Lalli said: “We sincerely apologize to Ms. Quiring for the experience she had. In cases of flight cancellations, we ensure all passengers are offered compensation options per APPR guidelines: rebooking on Flair or another airline, or cancellation with a refund. While this process was followed, an isolated error occurred in Ms. Quiring's case. Upon learning of this, we immediately connected with her to apologize and provide reimbursement.”

But Lukacs argues it’s a systemic problem, not an isolated incident. He blames the federal government for not enforcing the law.

“What should be happening is that airlines that engage in such systemic abuse — and let me stress it is not only Flair, Westjet is a far bigger offender than Flair when it comes to this point — should be facing very significant, hefty fines for each and every case when they break the law,” said Lukacs, who added the maximum fine under the existing regulations is $25,000.

“But those fines are not being issued. The typical fine for failing to issue proper alternative transportation is a few hundred dollars per violation. That does not have any real deterrence power,” said Lukacs.

His advice for passengers who find themselves in the same position as Quring? Make it clear you expect to be booked on a competitor's flight. And if the airline won’t accommodate, book that flight yourself, and pursue reimbursement.

“Don’t accept a refund though. Because the typical trick is they try to push a refund on you, and once you accept the refund, they wash their hands of you," he said.

Quiring was reimbursed for the cost of the competitor's flight, but she suspects that’s only because of her viral video.

She would also like to see financial penalties for airlines who repeatedly ignore the regulations, adding: “I think this law is great because it protects passengers, and we should be able to rely on that and rely on the airlines to follow that.”

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

How to avoid the trap of becoming 'house poor'

The journey to home ownership can be exciting, but personal finance columnist Christopher Liew warns about the trappings of becoming 'house poor' -- where an overwhelming portion of your income is devoured by housing costs. Liew offers some practical strategies to maintain better financial health while owning a home.

Stay Connected