Air Transat offers $400 to passengers of flight stranded for hours in Ottawa

Air Transat is offering hundreds of dollars in compensation to passengers of a redirected flight that was stuck on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport for six hours last month.

Compensation a 'gesture of good faith' due to air-conditioning failure, not for extended delay

Air Transat is offering $400 to passengers who were on Flight 157 from Brussels on July 31 for being deprived of air conditioning for more than an hour while their flight was stranded on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport. (Stephane Beaudoin/CBC)

Air Transat is offering hundreds of dollars in compensation to passengers of a redirected flight that was stuck on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport for six hours last month.

The airline company said it will give $400 to each passenger on Air Transat Flight 157 from Brussels "as a gesture of good faith" because the air conditioning failed, not because of the delays due to weather.

Hundreds of passengers aboard that flight, as well as Air Transat Flight 507 from Rome, were not allowed to disembark after their transatlantic flights were redirected to Ottawa on their way to Montreal on July 31. They were forced to remain on the planes for hours.

Flight 507 passengers are not being compensated.

Difficult circumstances

"Whatever the reasons, we are aware of the particularly difficult circumstances experienced by our passengers on board Flight 157," Air Transat wrote in an emailed statement to CBC News. "We extend our sincerest apologies for the unpleasantness they experienced during this unfortunate incident."

"The compensation paid is not intended to cover the delay of our aircraft, which was caused by weather circumstances beyond our control," read a separate French statement emailed to Radio-Canada.

Stranded passengers on the flight from Brussels complained about soaring temperatures on the plane after its fuel ran out and the air conditioning failed. The temperature outside reached 28 C, and the air conditioning was out for more than an hour. Passengers also complained that the flight ran out of food and water.

Some passengers resorted to calling 911, and when paramedics arrived the plane's doors were opened and the Ottawa International Airport Authority handed out water.

Despite the doors being opened, passengers were instructed "to remain on board for their safety," the airline wrote in its legal filing to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).

It also wrote there was a "critically high demand" for air stairs, which would have allowed passengers to disembark.

CTA investigating

The CTA is investigating and will hold a public inquiry over two days at the end of August.

The inquiry will examine whether Air Transat followed its tariff — the terms of service and obligations to passengers.

The tariff states that if delays occur while on board, Air Transat will offer drinks and snacks, where safe to do so. If the delay exceeds 90 minutes and if the aircraft commander permits, Air Transat will offer passengers the option of disembarking.

"If we find that the airline was in violation of its own tariff, we can order that passengers be compensated for expenses," along with ordering other corrective measures, Scott Streiner, the CTA's chair and CEO, told CBC News.

However, the law only applies to out-of-pocket expenses, he said.

Air Transat and airport statements differ

Both Air Transat and the Ottawa International Airport Authority have filed responses about what happened July 31.

The airline is blaming "a confluence of factors beyond our control," it wrote in its filing.

The airport authority, meanwhile, said a gate and air stairs were available to allow passengers to disembark.

But when the airport authority offered assistance, it alleges Air Transat staff were "uncommunicative," and that airport authority staff didn't get clearance from the airline to help.