Flair Airlines reason for cancelling flight from Mexico to Waterloo doesn’t hold water, says passenger rights advocate


An Elmira family spent more than $4,000 getting home after Flair cancelled their flight from Cancun and told them to wait seven days without compensation

WATERLOO REGION — Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs doubts a claim by Flair Airlines that bad weather forced it to cancel a flight, leaving an Elmira family stuck in Mexico.

“I don’t think it holds much water,” said Lukacs, president of Air Passenger Rights, a non-profit organization.

His advice to upset passengers is to demand compensation from Flair, point to international aviation rules, and force the budget airline to prove its weather claim.

An Elmira family of four plans to seek compensation after spending more than $4,000 to fly home from a Mexican vacation on a different airline, after Flair cancelled Wednesday’s flight from Cancun to the Region of Waterloo International Airport.

Flair provided no hotel or meal compensation in telling the family to wait seven days in Mexico for seats on the next available Flair flight. The airline refunded them $850 for cancelled tickets.

Flair’s action is in line with Canadian regulations for small airlines in a weather-related delay. Lukacs, citing case law, argues it may not meet Flair’s obligations when international flights are disrupted.

The airline disagrees. “Flair follows all international treaties and Canadian regulations that apply to it,” spokesperson Mike Arnot said.

A treaty called the Montreal Convention holds airlines liable for passenger compensation when international flights between countries that have signed the treaty, such Canada and Mexico, are delayed.

Exceptions are when the airline can prove the delay was an “extraordinary circumstance” outside its control, such as weather, or when the airline can prove it took reasonable steps to mitigate the fallout.

Flair says bad weather at the regional airport Tuesday night forced an incoming flight to divert from the Waterloo Region airport to Toronto. It says the diverted jetliner was to depart for Cancun at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday and return later in the day, but flights were cancelled when the jetliner could not be brought to the Breslau airport from Toronto in time to depart.

Lukacs questions if bad weather Tuesday can be blamed for the cancellation of a Wednesday flight. The Montreal Convention requires the airline to provide evidence for weather delays, he said.

Flair’s position is that it cancelled the Cancun flight after weather put its airplane in the wrong place. This makes it a weather event outside the airline’s control, Arnot said.

Arnot said Flair has met its obligations. Lukacs questions if Flair took reasonable steps under the Montreal Convention by telling the Gavaghan family to wait seven days, rather than sending them home earlier on a different airline.

“Seven days is not a reasonable amount of time, unless there’s a war,” he said.

Lukacs has been advising upset airline passengers to file small claims in court and seek settlements from airlines if their compensation demands are rejected. He recommends against complaining to the Canadian Transportation Agency, partly because it has a backlog of over 30,000 complaints.

Source: The Record