London

Swoop cancellations leave Londoners hanging

Londoners travelling with Swoop have been left scrambling to rebook flights with other airlines after the the WestJet Airlines subsidiary cancelled a set of flights between London and Halifax. This is part of a string of over 20 flight cancellations across the country from the ultra low-cost carrier.

The ultra low cost carrier has cancelled 23 flights around the country over the past five days. 

The ultra low-cost carrier has cancelled a little over two dozen flights in the past five days. (Shawn Benjamin/CBC)

Londoners travelling with Swoop have been left scrambling to rebook flights with other airlines after the WestJet Airline subsidiary cancelled a set of flights between London and Halifax. 

But the two cities aren't the only ones that have been subject to service disruptions by the company. 

The ultra-low cost carrier has cancelled 23 flights around the country over the past five days. 

"Unscheduled maintenance was required to replace an engine on one of our aircraft which had a leaking oil seal," Karen McIsaac, the airline's spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC News.

"Safety is our number one priority and we sincerely apologize to our travellers for the interruption in their plans," she added. 

The issues of flying with smaller airlines

London's International Airport has seen many frustrated customers arrive to cancelled flights.  

"It happens with all the airlines," Mike Seabrook, the president and chief of operations of the London International Airport said.

"Swoop is a startup airline. They've got a small fleet, which can disrupt the service, so passengers do have to be aware that these things can happen."

Swoop, which launched operations last summer, has seven airplanes, something Seabrook says can become a problem. 

They've got a small fleet, which can disrupt the service, so passengers do have to be aware that these things can happen.- Mike Seabrook, President London International Airport

"This week Swoop needed an engine swap on one aircraft and had a mechanical issue with another one. With a small fleet like that, if one aircraft is down, it disrupts the entire schedule," he said. 

Gabor Lukacs, the founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights, says mechanical issues do not justify cancellations. 

"Maintenance is not an excuse. It's irrelevant. It's not a snowstorm, it's not a sabotage, and it's not an act of terrorism. It's their aircraft, their maintenance, their problem," he said.    

Swoop, which is a subsidiary of WestJet Airlines, says they have rebooked affected travellers on the next available flight.

Consumer advocate and frequent flier Gabor Lukacs has taken on the airlines a couple of times now over their bumping practices, and won. (CBC)

In the email sent to CBC News, McIssac says the company will provide customers with accommodations such as meal and transportation expenses. She also said that anyone who wishes to cancel their flight can do so for a full refund. 

"Why cant WestJet just provide a spare aircraft?," Lukacs said. "It's not a small airline.They're bagged by WestJet." 

On a cancelled flight? 

Swoop says those who have received a flight cancellations email will receive a follow-up with instructions regarding a rescheduled flight.

The company is asking those who have been rebooked on a flight that is not suitable for them to self-manage their booking online or to contact them via Direct Message on Facebook or Twitter. 

Lukacs, who has helped air passengers file more than two dozen successful complaints with the Canadian Transportation Agency, says with the thousands of people who have been affected by Swoop's cancellations, a class-action lawsuit is possible. 

"Someone needs to step forward and hold Swoop accountable. I realize how difficult that is, but I cannot hold Swoop accountable without the public wanting to hold them accountable," he said. 

His recommendation for people who are facing current cancellations that have resulted in a rescheduled flight that is not convenient to them is as follows: 

  • document any interaction with the airline
  • buy a ticket through another airline 
  • send Swoop a letter of demand for any extra expenses.

If they airline refuses to pay for expenses, Lukacs says the affected traveller can proceed to take Swoop to small claims court.