CanJet Airlines is facing criticism after about 400 passengers were left stranded on a runway in Fredericton for nearly six hours today when two planes travelling from Cuba to Montreal were diverted because of the weather.
Freezing rain shut down Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, so the planes landed at Fredericton International Airport instead at about 3 a.m. AT, passenger Anne Tetreault told CBC News.
"I understand that it's winter, this happens," said Tetreault, who is from Montreal and was returning from a weeklong trip at a resort with family and friends.
But she is upset about the lack of communication from CanJet, she said.
The flight attendants did not provide much information and even a supervisor she managed to reach by phone had few answers, said Tetreault, whose daughter missed a long-awaited neurological appointment and whose son missed his first day of the university semester.
"Now that we're in this crisis, how well is the management dealing with all these people? They have obligations, they have small kids. We need to be informed. I think the key to this crisis is tell us."
Tetreault said that initially it seemed the delay would be short-term, just long enough for the planes to refuel.
But then freezing rain also hit Fredericton, which meant the planes would need to be de-iced. The airport ground crew were Air Canada staff, which meant Air Canada planes got priority, she said.
By the time the de-icing was done, the CanJet crews had nearly reached the maximum shift length allowed.
The passengers were forced to remain on the planes because there were no customs agents available to admit them into Canada, said Tetreault.
'Hopefully the management of CanJet will relook at the way that they’re managing these crises.'—Anne Tetreault, passenger
"There was no way they could get us out of the plane into the airport because we needed to go through customs. And they needed to find enough customs agents to process all of us," she said.
Three customs agents arrived at about 9 a.m. and the passengers were finally allowed into the Fredericton airport, which Tetreault contends does not have the space to comfortably accommodate two plane loads of people.
"Hopefully the management of CanJet will relook at the way that they’re managing these crises," said Tetreault. "It’s going to happen again. We’re in Canada, there will be again freezing rain or storms, so they need to have a better plan."
Airport spokesman John Hamilton said most of the stranded passengers have since been taken to a local hotel.
Replacement CanJet flight crews from Halifax or Montreal aren't expected to arrive until 10 p.m., Hamilton said. Some passengers may not leave until Tuesday morning, he added.