Hundreds of European travellers stuck in Montreal after airline cancels flights

Hundreds of European travellers stuck in Montreal after airline cancels flights

MONTREAL — During their two-week Canadian vacation, Jessie Brillouet and her three friends visited Niagara Falls and went whale watching in Tadoussac, Que. — but they've also seen more of Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport than they ever wanted to.

When the Hungarian residents arrived at the airport last Saturday, they saw on the departures board that their flight to Paris had been cancelled, with no representative from the airline in sight.

Brillouet and her friends were a few of the hundreds of passengers who were thrown into limbo after Spanish airline Level unexpectedly cancelled its Saturday and Monday flights from Montreal to Paris, citing "operational reasons."

After Monday's plane didn't take off, Brillouet said she was told the next available Level flights were scheduled for Thursday and Saturday — the latter a full week after the original flight.

"What are we supposed to do?" she told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "We have to work, we have to pay our rent."

Brillouet says her frustration has been compounded by the fact the airline rarely has staff present at the airport and has been hard to reach over the phone.

"We (have been) between the hotel and the airport, on the phone there or here, trying to find someone from Level, because they don't have anyone here, and on the phone it's impossible," she said.

In a statement, the airline said it was working to rebook its passengers and promised to reimburse them for the costs of their flight and accommodation.

"Our colleagues and partners have been working on rebooking or re-routing customers onto alternative flights since the disruption happened," spokesman Hugo Trac said in an email.

"We apologize for this disruption to our customers' holidays and travel plans."

The airline did not elaborate on what caused the cancellations.

In the end, Brillouet and her friends decided to book their own flights home to Budapest on another airline.

Hours before their Wednesday evening departure, they were back on the phone trying to reach Level to try to cancel their seats on the Thursday and Saturday flights.

Brillouet's friend, Krisztina Jozsa, said she's less upset about the cancellations than what she sees as the airline's disregard for its passengers.

"Everyone is saying it's a cheap flight and a cheap company, but that's not the issue," she said. "The issue is how they handled the situation."

Jozsa said some of her fellow passengers have formed a Facebook group and are planning to keep in touch.

They're also planning to launch legal action against the company once they finally get home.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press