Montreal

Air Canada passengers stuck in plane for hours at Montreal airport — not once, but twice

Instead of leaving for the Dominican Republic at 8:15 a.m. as planned, Air Canada passengers were still at the airport more than 10 hours later. Airline says mechanical issue caused delay.

'We’ve been here for 14 hours,' said one passenger after family gets on and off plane throughout day

From waiting in the plane, to waiting in lines, passengers were weary-eyed and exhausted by the end of the ordeal. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

Amanda Keslassy says her family spent about five hours on a plane, Monday, but didn't leave Montreal until Tuesday morning.

"It was hot," she said. "There was a lot of stress."

Her Air Canada flight was scheduled to take off for the Dominican Republic at 8:15 a.m., but she and her family were told to disembark three hours after loading. They were handed some food vouchers and told to board again at 2 p.m.

So that's what they did, but still the plane never took flight.

By 4 p.m., after two more hours of roasting among crying children and grumbling adults, they were told there was a mechanical issue.

"We were sitting in the plane with no air, because the motor wasn't running," Keslassy said, noting her disabled mother was among the passengers.

They had to disembark once again. Loading was rescheduled for 5 p.m.

Amanda Keslassy and her daughter described a hot and frustrating wait on the plane that never took off from Montreal's airport Monday. (CBC)

"When we got at the gate at five, they say the flight is cancelled," she said. "They say there's a plane, but no pilot."

Not knowing what to do, Keslassy waited in a line for two hours to speak with an agent. She was told Montreal residents had to go home, and those from out of town were given a room for the night.

When she arrived at the hotel, she discovered it was fully booked and got little sleep.

On Tuesday morning, Keslassy told CBC Montreal's Daybreak there was no shuttle bus to get her family to the airport and they had to pay for a taxi out-of-pocket.

At the airport, they were each given $10 to buy breakfast, but that's the only compensation they've seen so far. 

Keslassy's flight finally left Tuesday morning. Now, she and other passengers have started a petition in hopes of getting compensation and an apology from the airline. 

"The customer service of Air Canada is terrible," she said.

Family vacation fiasco

Jordan Soppit and his young family woke up early, making sure to get to the airport at 5 a.m. so they wouldn't miss their flight.

They were looking forward to celebrating the new year on the white sandy beaches of Puerto Plata where they had a rented condo for the week.

Instead, they spent the day waiting. If not on the plane, they were waiting in lines.

"We got on the plane by 8:15. By like 11, they took us off the plane," Soppit said.

"They gave us a couple $10 vouchers. We waited in line for 20 minutes for the vouchers, then they told us we had to be back on the plane in 10 minutes. We ended up buying bags of chips."

Later, Soppit's wife and children waited in line for a hotel room. Then they were stuck in another line for a shuttle.

One of Jordan Soppit's young daughters fell asleep in her mother's arms, while another rode the luggage cart as the family waited for a shuttle to a nearby hotel. (Jaela Bernstien/CBC)

"We've been here for 14 hours," he said. "We're supposed to be on vacation."

A spokesperson for the airline issued a brief statement to CBC News, saying Air Canada Rouge flight 1822 experienced a mechanical issue during takeoff and was subsequently taken out of service for repairs.

All passengers have been rebooked on a new flight for Tuesday morning, the statement says.

The airline did not respond to further questions.

Seeking compensation

Passenger rights activist Gábor Lukács says passengers should begin seeking compensation immediately. The first step, he said, is to contact the airline to seek up to $1,000 under new federal regulations that came into force on Dec. 15.

However, under the new regulations, airlines don't have to pay compensation for flights that are delayed or cancelled due to certain factors such as bad weather or mechanical issues that create a safety concern.

European Union regulations for flight delays cover most mechanical issues. Some critics have expressed concern that Canada's more limited rules mean many passengers will get nothing for their delayed flight as airlines can use mechanical issues as an excuse.

Lukács said he is among those concerned the airline will "weasel out of its obligation to pay monetary compensation to passengers."

But he said passengers can still lean on the Montreal Convention for help when seeking compensation for money spent in advance on lodging, cruise tickets or anything else.

"I suggest passengers take the airline to small claims court," said Lukács, founder of the non-profit advocacy group, Air Passenger Rights.

With files from Antoni Nerestant and Jaela Bernstien

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