What happens to customers on cancelled Max 8 flights?
The announcement that Canada has closed off airspace to Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 passenger jets has left some would-be passengers fretting over the status of their travel plans.
Indira Mangal arrived at Vancouver International Airport only to learn her flight to Ontario was cancelled.
"We're heading to Toronto for a wedding," she told CTV News. "There are pre-wedding ceremonies that I'll miss, for sure."
Mangal and other travellers in similar situations said they're frustrated, but understand the decision to ground the Max 8 and 9 aircraft days after the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
"Very annoying, but then rather be safe than take that chance," Mangal said.
Canadian airlines operate dozens of the affected aircraft, and there were several in the air when federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau issued a safety notice grounding them Wednesday morning.
What will happen to my flight?
In response to the announcement, Air Canada assured passengers its cancellation and booking policies are in place "with full fee waiver for affected customers.
"We are working to rebook impacted customers as soon as possible," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We appreciate our customers' patience."
The airline said customers travelling within the next 72 hours will be given priority.
WestJet, which has 13 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, said it's also working to rebook affected customers, but noted that 92 per cent of its 162-plane fleet remains in operation.
"Guests can book with confidence knowing that we continue to fly throughout the network with the safety of guests and employees at the forefront," it said. "We are contacting impacted guests to arrange for alternate travel plans."
Despite Canada's decision to ground Max 8s and 9s, WestJet said it "remains confident in the safety of its Boeing 737 fleet," but will comply with all of Transport Canada's instruction regarding the aircraft.
How many passengers are impacted?
Air Canada has 24 of the jets in its fleet, which the airline said carry between 9,000 and 12,000 customers per day. It warned travellers should expect delays while trying to rebook flights and reaching its call centres.
Despite some cancellations, the carrier said the majority of its flights are operating as normal.
Meanwhile, WestJet operates some 35 flights a day using Max aircrafts, and says it is working to swap planes to accommodate as many passengers as possible and minimize delays.
As of Wednesday, the Alberta-based airline said about 1,000 passengers had been affected, adding that about half of them were moved onto same-day flights. The remainder of delays are expected to be resolved Thursday.
Both airlines said the aircraft make up about six per cent of their fleets.
When will things return to normal?
Since Transport Canada made the decision to ground the aircraft, WestJet said it cannot speculate on the timeline.
Air passenger advocate Gabor Lukcacs said it is reasonable to expect disruption for the first couple of days as the airlines scramble to find alternatives.
“Certainly, they have to rethink how they’re going to transport passengers – whether they can rent or borrow aircraft from other places – so it is a crunch, no doubt,” he said.
But he anticipates spring break travel plans will not be impacted as much.
“This cannot justify the cancellation of flights two or three weeks from now,” he said. “The airlines may try to pin it on the grounding of the aircraft. And passengers need to push back.”
To view up-to-date departure information for flights leaving the Vancouver International Airport, click here.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Allison Hurst