alaa sakr

Ontario family hit with ‘horrific’ 36-hour travel day after delayed and canceled flights from 3 different airlines

It took 36 hours, three airlines and one layover before Alaa Sakr and her family returned home to Canada from a tropical vacation in Mexico.

“I’ve traveled a lot in Europe and used different airlines — low-cost, by the way — but I’ve never had this happen,” Sakr told CTV News Toronto on Monday. “And then it happens to me now, three times in one day. That’s really not promising.”

Heck, she was vacationing in Cancun, Mexico over the holidays with her husband, mother, and two-year-old daughter. They were scheduled to fly back to Ontario on New Year’s Day with Flair Airlines to the Region of Waterloo International Airport.

Since their flight was scheduled to depart around noon, Sakr said they checked out of the hotel at 7:30 a.m.

“We took the shuttle bus to the airport [and while we were] I was waiting in line, checking my emails and saw the cancellation email [from Flair]which will rebook us on January 15,” she said.

In an email obtained by CTV News Toronto, Flair told passengers the flight was canceled due to “aircraft damage at an airport under airline control” and that they rebooked passengers on the next available flight — a full two weeks later.

“Subsequent return flights on Flair Airlines were relatively full, so the option provided to the family was the first time the airline could accommodate them on their return,” Mike Arnot, a spokesman for Flair Airlines, said in an emailed statement.

“Passengers are offered the option of completing their Flair itinerary on the next available flight or a refund if they choose not to take the flight offered. Hotel accommodation is not guaranteed in this situation.”

Sakr said she tried to contact Flair’s agent online but couldn’t talk to anyone about what she and her family were going through. Instead, Sakr began looking at other flights that could bring them back home that day when she and her husband needed to get back to work.

SECOND FLIGHT, ANOTHER CANCELED TRIP

Sakr said she found a way back with Air Transat, which was scheduled to depart at 12:15 p.m., which was departing from the same terminal they were stuck in.

“We tried to book it, but it was very expensive,” Sakr said. “It was $1,200 per person just for the return trip and there are four of us.

Then she found another trip with Swoop Airlines to Toronto Pearson International Airport, which would cost just under $1,400 for the four of them, with a scheduled departure at 11:14 a.m. — but from a different terminal.

“So we took a taxi because the bus would be about 35 minutes late. We didn’t have time. It was around 10am […] so we ran,” said Sakr.

Once they arrived at Swoop’s check-in desk, Sakr said they found out their flight had been canceled again.

“At first they couldn’t find our names,” she said. “They asked to see the booking number, they asked to see the email, then they said, “Oh no, now I know what happened. The flight is cancelled.’

Sakr said the flight was canceled at 10am which was 11 minutes before they got the confirmation email for the flight.

A spokesperson for Swoop confirmed to CTV News Toronto that the flight was canceled at 10:19 a.m. on January 1.

“In this case, it appears that passengers booked their flights just minutes before the cancellation notice and email was sent,” Julia Brunet, a communications consultant for Swoop, said in an emailed statement.

Sakr said the next flight Swoop could have booked them on was leaving next week and she was advised to request a refund. Brunet said Swoop has given Sakr and her family a full refund and “sincerely apologizes” for the inconvenience.

THIRD LAP CRASH WITH DELAY

At this time, Sakr says there were no more direct flights to Toronto Pearson or Waterloo airports. However, there was an indirect flight with Air Canada that took them to Toronto via Montreal, with about a three-hour layover between the trips.

“The timing and everything was fine, so we booked this,” she said, adding that he was due to depart at around 2.40pm from another terminal at the airport.

Heck, she said she paid Air Canada $850 per person for one-way tickets.

When they arrived at the next terminal to check in for their flight, Sakr said she received an email that her flight from Montreal to Toronto had been pushed back to 7 a.m. the next day.

The flight from Cancun was also delayed by four hours plus another hour waiting on the tarmac. Sakr said they were not given an explanation about the hour-long delay, which they later learned was due to a lack of staff, until they were on board the flight.

“They didn’t offer anything,” she said. “They just gave us food stamps.

An Air Canada spokesman could not comment on Sakra’s specific case, but said the airline is fulfilling its obligations under the Air Passenger Protection Regulation (APPR). Under the APPR, airlines are required to clearly communicate delays or cancellations, damaged or lost baggage, and flight delays of more than three hours at the apron.

“If this customer has questions, they should contact our customer relations department through our website. Please note that cases may take up to 30 days to process,” the emailed statement said.

Fortunately, Sakr and her family had relatives to stay with when they landed in Montreal around midnight. Since they didn’t get to bed until around 1am, they opted for the afternoon flight back to Toronto – which left on time.

But the strenuous and long travel day did not end at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. Because they parked their car at Waterloo Airport, Sakr said they had to take an hour-long Uber ride to get there.

It was between 6 and 7pm when they returned to their home in Hamilton.

‘I WILL NOT FLY WITH THEM ANYMORE’

Sakr said they all felt “terrible” and “really tired” after a 36-hour travel day.

“My daughter had tantrums [throughout] day,” she said. “My mom, she’s elderly, she was really stressed, really tired, she didn’t sleep much, it was a terrible experience. It wasn’t easy for any of us.”

All the rescheduled flights set Sakr back $3,500, though she said Flair promised to refund her $1,000 for her canceled flights. Still, Sakr said the $2,500 will be out of pocket.

“This is the first and last time. Was it horrible like rebooking us after 15 days? I can’t believe it,” Sakr said of her experience with Flair Airlines. “I won’t fly with them again.

Arnot said the airline was “doing its best” to fly its scheduled routes.

“This is a really unfortunate scenario that we want to avoid for our passengers, and we’re sorry,” Arnot said.

Sakr said she filed a complaint with every airline online.


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