Delays at the Trudeau Airport propelled by labour shortages in the aviation industry have made travel for those relying on Quebec's regional airlines nearly impossible.
Vanessa Schneider had planned to fly with her children to visit family in her hometown of Sept-Îles, Que., last Thursday, but gave up after her Air Canada flight was cancelled four nights in a row.
She's just one of thousands of travellers over recent weeks at the airport who've encountered repeated cancellations and lost luggage as airlines struggle to bounce back after two years of reduced air travel in the pandemic.
"At the airport on the third night, my daughter and I, we cried a bit. My little boy was sad too but he didn't cry. It was hard. It was very, very disappointing," Schneider said.
She's not the only one. She says she saw many other passengers crying at the airport.
"The funny thing is they were offering us a flight this Monday to go Sept-Îles, but we were [planning on] coming back the next day at noon. So they were offering us a wonderful twelve hours in my hometown," she said. Sept-Îles is about 900 kilometres northeast of Montreal, on the St. Lawrence River.
One of her flights was cancelled only 30 minutes before departure. It also took her two days before she could find her luggage after it first went missing last Saturday.
"I'm lucky we're going back at the end of the summer. This time we're with Provincial Airlines (PAL), so hopefully we'll be able to make it," said Schneider, who was able to get a refund for her flight.
"I do feel a lot of empathy for the other people who do not have a second opportunity like we do to go back, to go on holiday."
Yoelaine Noël, a travel agent from Sept-Iles, says her agency has been dealing with non-stop calls from frustrated customers.
She's been working in the industry for more than 30 years and says she's never experienced anything like this before.
"Air Canada's computer systems aren't working efficiently," Noël said. "People are required to wait up to three hours or more to get a response from them."
Air Canada cutting summer flights
On Wednesday, Air Canada announced it would be cutting dozens of daily flights through July and August to better cope with the labour shortage.
It will cut its schedule by 77 round trips — or 154 flights — on average, each day. Most include flights through Montreal and Toronto.
"Long processing times at airports and remaining pandemic requirements continue to result in flight delays and in some instances cancellations, and these can have knock-on effects not only for our customers but can also impact our employee resources and operations," a spokesperson for the company said in an email Thursday.
"All these operational constraints have an impact on our regional flights as well."
International travelers coming through Trudeau Airport for connecting flights to their destinations have also been struggling.
Laura Stokes was at the airport on Thursday and slept in a chair after her connecting flight from London, U.K. to Las Vegas was cancelled the night before.
"I just needed to find a corner where I was alone," she said. "We stood in a line for about three and a half hours. They didn't offer any type of compensation."
The same thing happened to Elena Persiiantsev when she was trying to catch a flight to Toronto on June 20 after coming from Tel Aviv with her four children and two dogs. She decided to spend about $1,300 on a taxi from Montreal to Toronto instead, even though her luggage had gone missing.
"Nothing, they just said 'buy your ticket for another flight,'" she said, saying they also weren't offered any vouchers for hotels, food or transportation.
"I was so tired I didn't take the receipt, I just forgot because it had been 11 hours [on the flight and in the airport], and six hours in the taxi all the night," Persiiantsev said.
By Thursday afternoon, it looked like things were starting to run more smoothly at the airport.
Only one family out of about a dozen seemed to be having significant problems when approached by reporters. They were dealing with a delay after a cancelled flight, and looking to re-book their tickets to Europe.