Woodrow French

Woodrow French says if last weekend's incident with Porter Airlines had happened in Europe, the airline would have been compelled to stay with its passengers and arrange travel to their final destinations. (CBC)

A long-time advocate for airline passengers has renewed his call for a passenger bill of rights, following an incident last weekend involving passengers who were diverted on a Porter Airlines flight.

Heavy fog prevented a flight from landing in St. John's on Sunday, so the airline flew into Stephenville where they told passengers they would have to fend for themselves.

Woodrow French said Porter Airlines did not provide good service to its customers. 

"A simple phone call from someone in Halifax could have had a bus waiting. The people could have gotten on their bus and been taken to their destination in St. John's without having to go through a significant expense with regard to renting cars and finding alternate transportation," said French. 

In a statement, Porter said 63 of the 74 passengers opted to disembark from the plane in Stephenville, rather than return to Halifax. They were also informed that any costs for ground transportation or accommodation was their own responsibility, because the circumstances were weather-related. Porter said assistance is typically provided for situations within the airline's control, such as mechanical delays.

French said the airline would have been compelled to stay with the passengers and arrange travel to their final destination if it had happened in Europe or the United States.

He said things would have been different if Canada had a passenger bill of rights.

'A simple phone call from someone in Halifax could have had a bus waiting' - Woodrow French

"In Europe they go a bit further to ensure that passengers are looked after wherever they land. If there's bad weather, then there are a number of alternatives that are given to the airline. Even in extraordinary circumstances, airlines must provide assistance when necessary. So if they put you off in an area other than the one that was your final destination - then at least they have to have somebody there to look after you, to assist you. They can't abandon you, which seems to be what has happened to the passengers on [Sunday's] this flight." 

French has been calling for a legislated passenger bill of rights in Canada for more than five years.