Expect more flight cancellations and disruptions after weekend outage, WestJet says

More than 30 WestJet flights were cancelled Monday following a weekend system outage that left dozens of passengers stranded.  (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)
More than 30 WestJet flights were cancelled Monday following a weekend system outage that left dozens of passengers stranded. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press - image credit)

WestJet passengers are still looking for new flights, compensation and lost luggage after the airline's system-wide outage on the weekend led to cancelled flights and other disruptions.

The Calgary-based airline said another 31 flights were cancelled Monday due to the effects of the outage combined with winter weather affecting Alberta and other parts of Western Canada.

Over the weekend, the outage led to the cancellation of over 200 WestJet, Swoop and Sunwing flights that have many travellers still stranded and seeking compensation.

The airline said it has been providing guests with applicable standards of treatment as outlined in the Air Passenger Protection Regulations, which includes hotels, transportation and meal vouchers, while also seeking alternative travel arrangements to get them to their destinations as soon as reasonably possible.

But guests said that hasn't been their experience.

WestJet customer Ryan McNichol, his wife and their six-month-old child were supposed to be in Mexico, where his wife is scheduled to teach yoga classes.

But like hundreds of other travellers, their plans were ruined when the outage caused them — and 30 other people on their flight — to miss their connection in Calgary.

"When we got there, we waited in a lineup for over two hours while on the phone with WestJet as well, only to be told that they were going to do nothing for us and if they were in our shoes, that they would just go home," he said.

Alexander VandeLaar and his wife were also headed to Mexico, for a work event they're supposed to host on Tuesday.

They met McNichol's family in the lineup, and the couples became fast friends. Sunday night, they slept over at McNichol's parents' house after leaving the airport without any word on compensation, hotel or food vouchers — or when they might get on another flight.

"We've made best friends, so that is the silver lining," said VandeLaar.

Since then, both families have booked flights through other airlines that should get them to Mexico on Tuesday.

But, they said, they were disappointed by how the airline handled people who were stuck or delayed because of the outage.

"It's definitely frustrating. Luckily, we were able to come up with our own solution. But there were old ladies at the airport or young people that were travelling for the first time and didn't know where to go. That was disheartening," said VandeLaar.

"Being stranded in a different city and not having any solution — like, maybe they didn't have room on their credit card to even book a hotel, stuff like that. I think it's really important for us to make sure that we're all being protected."

Gemini Clarke said she was stuck in Calgary, exhausted and wanting answers but had no word if she would be placed on a flight back to Kelowna on Monday.

Clarke said she had been unable to receive a response as she had not heard information over the phone or email as lines remained congested with customers in similar circumstances.

WestJet said an additional 10 flights had been scheduled Monday for passengers still waiting for flights.

Jacob Charbonneau, general manager with Flight Claim, a law firm that fights for the compensation for wronged passengers, said it's important passengers keep all their receipts for future compensation claims.

He said they could be entitled to a number of things.

"They should be taken care of, so they should have access to food, drinks, sometimes a hotel night if they have to pass the night between their new flights," he said.

And, he said, If they're not able to be rebooked within 48 hours, they could also be entitled to a refund as compensation, between $400 and $1,000 per passenger.

The airline said it is conducting a full internal review of the incident and is in contact with the Canadian Transportation Agency and Transport Canada.