Calgary

NewLeaf should be on the hook for passenger costs, says advocate

A passenger rights advocate says a new discount carrier should be on the hook for a lot more than ticket refunds to its Alberta customers.

'It appears they are skirting their obligation to the public. This is a very, very troublesome attitude'

A passenger rights advocate says NewLeaf should be on the hook to rebook passengers who had tickets on its cancelled Alberta to Arizona route. (NewLeaf)

A passenger rights advocate says a new discount carrier should be on the hook for a lot more than ticket refunds to its Alberta customers.

NewLeaf, which is headquartered in Winnipeg, announced Tuesday it is cancelling flights from Calgary and Edmonton to Mesa, Ariz., because it got nudged out of the market by WestJet.

The company simultaneously announced that it will no longer fly from Hamilton to Melbourne, Fla.. 

Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs said the Canadian Transportation Agency's notice to carriers outlines the reasonable standard of practice. 

The notice says if a flight is cancelled for reasons within an airline's control, it must rebook passengers on another flight, if not on its airline, then another — at the company's expense

Lukacs said that's not what NewLeaf has done.

"It appears they are skirting their obligation to the public. This is a very very troublesome attitude."

NewLeaf will only refund the prices of the tickets to customers, but Lukacs said customers should fight that with either NewLeaf or the company that owns the planes, Flair Air.

Passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says NewLeaf should do more to help affected customers. (The Canadian Press)

In an email, the CTA said the company doesn't fall under its jurisdiction.

"In Decision No. 100-A-2016, the Canadian Transportation Agency found that NewLeaf Travel Company Inc., as a reseller, will not be considered to operate an air service and will not be required to hold a licence as long as it does not hold itself out to the public as an air carrier operating an air service," the agency told CBC News in an email.

"As NewLeaf is not a licensee, it is not regulated by the Canadian Transportation Agency."

Calgary-based airline analyst Rick Erickson says smaller companies don't have the kind of money needed to pay out double or triple the original ticket price to rebook thousands of customers.

"That's one of the risks you take when you go with a new startup versus one of the very well established majors," said Erickson.

"You can't be selling a $150 ticket to Phoenix, one way, and begin to think you can put that passenger on another carrier. Say a U.S. carrier going over Denver, the ticket is going to be $450, and NewLeaf just can't handle those costs."

NewLeaf says it may start offering flights to Mesa again in the future.

With files from Colleen Underwood

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