'We're stranded here': Dozens of Swoop airline passengers stuck in Kelowna
Published Wednesday, August 28, 2019 6:15AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 28, 2019 8:38PM PDT
Emily Rae and Michael Okafor are just two of the dozens of passengers delayed after a plane was damaged in Kelowna.
"A truck drove into the propeller," said Rae. She told CTV News in an interview it happened about a half an hour before they were supposed to take off, while passengers were boarding.
On Thursday, Swoop said it was still investigating the cause of the incident. The airline said the plane in question is a Boeing 737-800, a type of aircraft that does not have propellers.
Rae and Okafor were in Kelowna from Winnipeg for a friend’s wedding on the weekend. They were scheduled to leave Monday.
Okafor told CTV News it was "mayhem" when they found out what had happened. "(Swoop) had no protocol; they had no network or any system."
Initially the pair said there was an announcement at the airport about a chartered flight that was supposed to get them out by Wednesday at the latest. Later Monday night they received emails saying passengers had been rebooked on Swoop flights.
"They’re not getting out until Sept. 2, 4 and 6," Pat Ward, the mother of the bride said to CTV News. "They’re trapped here."
Rae was booked on a flight on the last day.
"We can’t just call our work and be like we’re going to be back in 11 days," she said. "It doesn’t work that way."
Swoop airlines confirmed "unscheduled maintenance" to one of its aircraft that resulted in delays to the network until Wednesday. It confirmed that 100 passengers are impacted.
In an updated statement sent to CTV News the airline said, "An aircraft has been secured for Thursday, August 29, and schedules will return to normal."
It went on to say that "Swoop will reimburse impacted travellers if they purchase tickets from other airlines and will cover the additional cost of travel."
Travellers were also provided with hotel, meal and transportation vouchers.
A statement from Swoop president Steven Greenway reiterated the points about reimbursement for travel on other airlines and vouchers. Greenway also apologized to travellers for "any inconvenience" they experienced as a result of the incident.
"Upon inspection of the aircraft on Aug. 26, damage was found on the body and we are continuing to investigate the cause," Greenway said. "Given our diligent safety protocols, we grounded the plane for repair."
That led to the cancellation of seven flights in total, according to Greenway. Those flights included ones from Kelowna to Winnipeg, Winnipeg to Abbotsford, Edmonton to Las Vegas, and Las Vegas to Edmonton, Edmonton to Hamilton, Hamilton to Orlando and Orlando to Hamilton.
In his statement, Greenway also said, "all impacted travellers are rebooked on the next available Swoop flight. If the flight is not satisfactory, travellers are welcome to book alternative travel arrangements."
This appears to be in conflict with Swoop's domestic tariff -- the legal fine print that accompanies every purchased ticket. That agreement seems to promise that Swoop will do the booking on another airline for its passengers, rather than reimbursing them for bookings they make themselves.
CTV News reached out to Swoop for clarification and received the following response from Greenway:
"Swoop will offer to make alternate travel arrangements. In addition, however, in the interest of timeliness and efficiency for impacted travellers, passengers are welcome to make their own reasonable travel arrangements and submit expenses to Swoop for reimbursement as the volume of calls and lengthy wait times may present challenges to passengers waiting for the carrier to make arrangements."
An airline passenger advocate said those impacted should consider legal action.
"What happened here was egregious. It was inexcusable," said Gabor Lukacs, founder and coordinator of airpassengerrights.ca. "The airline was required and is required to rebook passengers on other airlines. They have failed to do so."
Rae and Okafor booked themselves on a flight out early Wednesday morning with another airline.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ross McLaughlin and Ian Holliday