About 800 travellers scheduled mainly for trips across Canada did not board their WestJet planes Saturday after the airline cancelled 18 domestic flights in the wake of the 737 Max aircraft groundings.
While 400 of the would-be passengers will be rebooked on flights departing Sunday, according to the airline, around 300 people could find themselves stranded until Monday.
About 1,800 WestJet passengers are affected by the airline’s rescheduling, says Lauren Stewart, an airline spokesperson. But about 1,000 passengers will be rebooked on same-day flights departing Saturday, she wrote to the Star in an email, adding that WestJet worked “incredibly hard,” this week to limit cancellations to “sunny destinations.”
“It has been a busy week as WestJet has worked to minimize inconvenience to our guests affected by the temporary grounding of our 13 Boeing MAX aircraft,” she said. “Of the more than 65,000 guests booked on MAX flights up to March 31, more than 85 per cent will have had little to no changes to their flight schedules.”
Airlines across the globe have grounded 737 Max aircraft since safety concerns began to surface after last Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people. Officials noticed dangerous similarities to the Lion Air crash in October that killed 189 passengers.
Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick told the Star in an email that Air Canada’s priority was also to cover its “north-south” flying and has been able to accommodate the vast majority of travellers on their way home from holidays, particularly from Mexico and the Caribbean.
While there may be delays on some domestic transcontinental flights, he said, Air Canada is “working to add capacity in these markets.” “Overall, we are working successfully to reallocate aircraft or move customers’ flights to enable them to travel,” Fitzpatrick said.
He said Air Canada has put a “customer-centric, flexible rebooking policy in place” so impacted customers can change their flights “without any additional fees.”
Sunwing, which advertises vacation packages to sunny destinations, said it has had few problems in dealing with the groundings. “Fortunately Sunwing Airlines was able to revise this weekend’s flying with minimal disruption to the schedule and no cancellations,” said an emailed statement to the Star.
For now, Stewart said, WestJet has replaced its Boeing 737 Max from Calgary/Edmonton to Hawaii with a 767 aircraft and is flying two 787 Dreamliner aircraft on its Calgary and Toronto routes.