There have been last-minute cancellations of flights and issues with customer service. A major setback was when Swoop airline decided to cancel the 23 that were scheduled between 5th and 10th of July. The reason was the upkeep of one of their aircraft.
One of the affected passengers was Carolina Ayala, who booked her flight from Fort Lauderdale back to Hamilton on 8th of July. The night before the flight airline informed her she was rebooked on a trip that’s taking off on 12th of July. Since she was starting at a new job in Toronto, Mrs. Ayala couldn’t wait that long. She tried to reach Swoop’s customer service, yet there was no one to answer because it was the weekend.
The only solution for her was to book a flight in Air Canada for $731, which is almost four times more than the $191 she paid for the ticket on Swoop. The company refunded Mrs. Ayala the unused part of her booking. However, it didn’t offer the compensation of cost difference for the ticket she bought in Air Canada until the 15th of July, after she spoke for Global News.
Swoop stated that they are conducting a full review considering the flight cancellations and working to regain its travelers’ confidence. They said they were aware of the necessity for additional traveler support in their contact center and that in this particular case, their response time was influenced by the amount of correspondence. The company also said they rebooked travelers to next available flight and worked with each of them to find an arrangement that would be suitable.
Flair Airlines Also Had Some Setbacks
This February, Flair Airlines had to suspend their flights to California and Florida earlier. This company based in Edmonton decided due to a reduced number of bookings and termination of the contract with minor party airline.
They stated to Global News they were contacting affected passengers and making arrangements for them, as well as refunding tickets to those who have already started their travel. Yet, some of their travelers also had complaints about Flair’s customer service.
For example, last year Colleen Shickluna was waiting two months for the refund of $130 cab ride from Toronto to Hamilton she had to take due to route-changing. And the compensation came after Global News published hers and other passengers’ story.
Flair apologized to all of the passengers who didn’t receive a refund or reimbursement after the receipt was acknowledged. They added that they made some improvements to their processes and systems in order to enhance the experience of their customers.
When the dissatisfied travelers, among which was Carolina Ayala, posted their experience on Twitter, they didn’t get much empathy. Most of the responses were addressing a price-quality relation.
Low-Cost Airlines Shouldn’t Experience the Challenges Typical of Start-Up Companies
Jon Korenic, the aviation expert, denies the implication that lower price of travel inevitably brings distress. The problem with Flair and Swoop is that they fly with fewer planes, and not that they are low-cost carriers.
Flair currently operates with five aircraft and waiting for another two to join their fleet in a few months. And Swoop’s fleet is counting seven airplanes. In comparison to other ultra-low-cost airlines, this number is quite low. For example, European airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair have more 300 and 450 aircraft.
Looking from this perspective, the chances for schedule disturbances are higher. This is especially the case at the peak of travel season, which in Canada lasts from mid-June until the beginning of September. Korenic said that this is a time when the fleet should be maximized, so the opportunity to add capacity or the aircraft is little.
Another thing that influenced the capacity shortages are issues concerning the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Since March, the jets have been out of use after two crashes in which 346 died.
Nevertheless, Koranic said that even for the start-up airlines customer support is the essential feature of the company, because for any of us rebooking after several days wouldn’t work.
Can New Rights for Air Passengers Improve Things?
New federal regulations of consumer protection for air travelers came into effect on 15th of July. They endorsed new standards regarding the compensation and treatment if overbooking, delays, loss, or damaging luggage occurs. And rules related to flight cancellations and delays will be announced on the 15th of December.
The Canadian Transportation Agency told Global News that, according to these rules, in case of flight cancellation large companies will be obliged to rebook the passengers on another competing airline. This will be the procedure if the flight of these companies departs nine or more hours after the original departure time.
Agency also said that rebook on competing airlines for small ones doesn’t exist. However, they will have the responsibility to make reasonable alternative travel arrangements and provide services complementary to the ones on the original ticket. In case the alternate arrangements don’t work, all companies are obliged to refund the unused part of the booking. Additionally, if the disturbances caused the passenger to change their route and their travel isn’t serving the purpose, the airline should provide the compensation.