Air Canada flights to India to resume tonight

Air Canada flight to India turns back after Pakistan closes airspace
Air Canada flight to India turns back after Pakistan closes airspace

Air Canada trips to and from India will resume tonight after flights to New Delhi and Mumbai were cancelled on Feb. 27.

But for some travellers in those cities, the news falls short of atoning for the stress they have experienced as a result of a lack of clear information from Air Canada and conflicting media reports on cancellations.

The airline rerouted a plane to Delhi back to Toronto 12 hours into the flight, after Pakistan closed its air space in response to rising tensions with India.

According to an email from Air Canada to Yahoo News Canada, flights from Toronto and Vancouver to Delhi will resume late Feb. 28 and early March 1.

“This has been a very fluid situation,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick explained.

Despite the fact that Air Canada’s website listed airspace closures for Mumbai on Feb. 27 and 28, Fitzpatrick said flights to Mumbai were not affected by the cancellations because they only run four days a week.

On Wednesday and Thursday those details — the closure of airspace above Mumbai and assurances that Mumbai flights wouldn’t be affected — were presented in conflicting media reports.

Some outlets implied Air Canada had suspended all service to India, while others reported that only flights to and from New Delhi were affected.

Journalist Shree Paradkar and videographer Kathryn Mallinson, currently in Lucknow, India, say mixed signals exacerbated the stress of facing cancelled flights out of India.

“One, there’s confusion, two there’s poor communication,” she said to Yahoo News Canada. “And the alternative [flights] are getting so much more expensive with the uncertainty, so it would be so nice if they told us one way or another what the plan is.”

The two are working on a film project in India and Mallinson was scheduled to fly back to Toronto on March 2.

However when reports began to emerge that some flights had been cancelled, Mallinson and Paradkar struggled to find accurate information and Paradkar expressed her frustration on Twitter.

Paradkar said at the time she felt much of the reporting in Canada seemed to be written for people in Canada without providing enough helpful information for those stranded in India, including details on Air Canada’s goodwill policy and options for alternative flights to Canada.

“I was a little annoyed because it felt like my colleagues there are just repeating statements Air Canada is saying without thinking of Canadians abroad who are actually affected by this,” she said.

According to Paradkar, even when she and Mallinson called Air Canada customer service for information, they received different answers from one agent to another.

The first agent the women spoke to allegedly told them Air Canada flights to and from India would be suspended for two months.

“She said that all flights have been cancelled, every flight by Air Canada, until April 29th,” Paradkar said. “She said it covers Delhi, Mumbai, everything.”

The next agent they spoke to said the airline can only say on a day-to-day basis which flights will be cancelled.

Paradkar also took issue with how the airline’s goodwill policy was presented in news reports, or, more specifically, how it wasn’t presented.

“Journalists across the board were writing that Air Canada has kicked in a goodwill policy but they’re not bothering to ask what that means,” she said.

Paradkar was disappointed to learn from Air Canada that while the airline will allow customers affected by the cancellations to rebook flights without paying a penalty or refund their fares, Air Canada would not cover any additional costs incurred by customers booking alternative flights with other airlines.

Mallinson said knowing flights will resume overnight on Feb. 28 eases her mind, but she wishes there was more clarity around the cancellations from the time they were first announced.

“The frustrating part is the lack of clarity and the uncertainty,” Mallinson said. “Because once you have sort of concrete information then you can make your own decisions instead of just waiting.”

Travellers can visit the Daily Travel Outlook section of Air Canada’s website for information about cancellations and the airline’s goodwill policy.