Air Canada flight communicator system breaks down, causing widespread delays
More than 40% of the airline's flights delayed today, according to tracking website
Air Canada is experiencing an issue with one of its internal systems, leading to flight delays across its network.
The airline said Thursday it is "experiencing a temporary technical issue with its communicator system, one of the systems that we use to communicate with aircraft and monitor operational performance."
The issue is causing delays across the system, with 234 flights delayed so far on Thursday and 34 cancellations, according to FlightAware.com. That's about 44 per cent of the airline's daily load.
Air Canada's flanker brand Rouge is also impacted, with 78 delays, or 52 per cent of its flights, as well as 11 cancellations.
It's the second time in less than a week that the airline has been hit by a problem with its communicator system that caused delays or cancellations. On May 25, U.S. aviation regulator the FAA ordered a ground stop of all Air Canada flights due to unspecified internal computer issues. The outage lasted a little over an hour.
Air Canada says the impacted system is the same as the one from last week, but says the two outages are "unrelated."
"We have been in the process of upgrading this system using a third-party supplier's technology. Air Canada will continue to work with the manufacturer to ensure stability in the system in the future."
Duncan Dee, a former executive at the airline, described the affected system as an "electronic tracking system to allow them to identify the location of their aircraft at any given time within their network."
"It's the system which allows them to track their aircraft and to communicate with flights in a more automated way," he told CBC News.
He was scheduled to fly on an Air Canada flight himself on Thursday and said it was disheartening to see the system fail twice "in such a short period of time. This isn't something that happens very regularly ... because obviously systems aren't supposed to go down and certainly not to go down so soon, one after the other."
Government monitoring situation
Early in the afternoon, the airline said the system has begun to "stabilize" but is not yet back to normal and delays continue.
The airline is advising anyone who is supposed to fly today to check the status of their flight before heading to the airport.
"We are working hard to rectify this situation," the airline told CBC News in an emailed statement. "We apologize to those affected, and appreciate their patience."
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said he has been in constant contact with the airline and has been assured that the company is doing everything it can.
"I encourage them to get it up as quickly as possible," Alghabra said. "They understand the consequences of these delays ... they are working on restoring it as quickly as possible."
Last month, the government tabled new rules designed to make it harder for airlines to wriggle out of compensating passengers for costly delays and cancellations. Those rules have yet to be tabled, but Alghabra said what's happening on Thursday would be covered by existing rules since it's being caused by something the airline can control.
"Based on current rules, passengers are protected," he said. "Air Canada has obligations to passengers."