Other than taking their troubles patiently, the hundreds of passengers currently stuck at the airport or in the South have little recourse.
Most of the travelers caught up in the turmoil are Sunwing customers. This company ranks 3rd, behind Flair Airlines and Swoop Inc., in the number of complaints per 100 flights operated by a Canadian airline, between April 1 and September 30, in a ranking published by the Transportation Agency of Canada (OTC).
Comparatively, this ranking indicates that Air Transat and Air Canada had fewer complaints. On the other hand, it would be interesting to know the number of complaints per flight (there is quite a difference between one and 60 complaints).
"People do business with Sunwing because it's cheap," said a travel industry expert who wished to remain anonymous. Let's say that when you buy from Dollarama, you don't expect to have the same service as from Holt Renfrew... Especially since Sunwing is in trouble because there are fewer hires there than with other carriers, because the firm will soon be bought by WestJet. We see what it gives. »
Services not rendered only
In fact, injured customers can file a complaint upon their return from travel with the Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agents (FICAV). But you must have purchased your ticket from a Quebec travel agent.
And FICAV will only reimburse tourist services not rendered:
"If you take off two days late, they won't reimburse vacation days, or lost wages, or damages, if you miss a wedding in Punta Cana," said Charles Tanguay, spokesman for the Office of Consumer Protection (OPC), which supervises the FICAV.
But if you lose two hotel nights, if you miss your cruise or a pre-scheduled activity, FICAV should reimburse them.
The travel agent
The travel agent is not to be neglected in such a situation, because unlike the consumer, he has direct access to the inventories of the seats of the carriers and can intercede in favor of the customer sitting on his suitcase in the airport. Even if the carrier's kiosk is closed and he does not answer the phone.
"I secured seats for a 4 p.m. flight [Wednesday], for customers who missed their flight this morning, whose plane was requisitioned for passengers on a canceled flight yesterday [Tuesday]," explains Moscow Côté, President of the Association of Travel Agents of Quebec. Travel agents are struggling, but that's part of our job. »
The case of snowstorms
Normally, a snowstorm does not constitute an event which makes it possible to demand compensation from the air carrier, because it is not its fault.
But Sunwing had major problems from the first days of the storm, which did not affect other carriers as strongly. A source within the travel industry believes that customers would be likely to obtain compensation if they complained to the CTO.
But it's not won. And the outcome of a case often takes more than a year.
On December 27, Sunwing posted details on its website saying that customers whose trip was canceled would receive a full refund without any action on their part. For customers who are more than two hours late or want to change their trip, please call 1-877-786-9464 before December 30. They can also sign up for the flight alert service (https://www.sunwing.ca/en/sunwing-airlines/flight-status-and-alerts).
Several readers contacted Le Journal to report that they were unable to reach Sunwing or that they had been refused a refund. Sunwing never responded to my interview requests.
Different country, different rules...
It should be noted that for delayed flights, nothing obliges air carriers to offer compensation for domestic flights. For foreigners, the regulations change according to the destination and some countries do not provide any compensation. I therefore suggest that you get information from a service like volenretard.com.
“Usually, it is the responsibility of the service provider (air carrier or travel agent), to compensate travelers when the purchased service has not been rendered. Cancellation insurance usually covers situations related to the insured (for example, illness). That being said, travelers should check with their insurer as not all products and coverage are the same,” says Lyne Duhaime, President, Canadian Life and Health Insurance Industry Association (CLHIA) for Quebec. .
Check your insurance
It would be wise to check the protections offered by your group insurance or that of your credit card, especially in the event of loss of luggage. Finally, your home insurer could compensate for the loss of the contents of your suitcases (lost by the carrier).
It should be noted that air transport ranks 4th in the OPC's annual list of complaints, between December 1, 2021 and November 30, 2022.