Thunder Bay

Porter Airlines-bumped chemotherapy patient gets compensation

What appears to have been a glitch in flight-bumping policy left Porter Airlines scrambling to make up for a decision that resulted in a Thunder Bay, Ont., cancer patient and her father being refused their seats on a Toronto-bound plane.

Porter Airlines offered 5 round-trip flights as compensation

Thunder Bay, Ont., resident Greg Ulok and his 16-year-old daugher, Xenia, were recently bumped from a Porter Airlines flight because they paid the lowest price for their tickets. They were headed to Toronto for one of Xenia's cancer treatments. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

What appears to have been a glitch in flight-bumping policy has left Porter Airlines scrambling to make up for a decision that resulted in a Thunder Bay, Ont., cancer patient and her father being refused their seats on a plane bound for Toronto.

The two were on their way to a chemotherapy appointment when they were bumped from their flight because officials said the plane was overweight.

Porter Airline director of communications Brad Cicero said the company is clarifying the situation with Greg Ulok and his teenage daughter, Xenia, "directly."

"It is policy to ask for volunteers first — with travel vouchers provided as incentive," Cicero said.

But that didn't happen, which is why Greg Ulok came forward with his story.

"We do have an issue. I'm not the only case that happened.

"Perhaps someone in charge should look at the issue of overbooking the planes. And no matter what it is, it's either overweight or overbooking, and some restrictions should be given so when you go online and you purchase a ticket, you expect to get on a plane. That's the bottom line."

Ulok and his 16-year-old daughter each received $500 vouchers for future travel and the value of their flights was refunded, Cicero said. The company said it also helped co-ordinate a flight to Toronto on another airline in time for their appointment.

Ulok said he booked his own flights on another airline.

Ulok said on Tuesday night, he received a phone call from a Porter vice-president, along with the assistant to company president Robert Deluce. He said he was also contacted by Deluce, apologizing for the incident.

"They did contact me, and they did recognize that mistakes were made."

"It's not how you fall, it's how you get up. At this point, to receive the Porter phone calls, to hear how seriously they took this case ... they did [take] it very serious."

Ulok said the company also offered his daughter five round-trip flights, including all fees and taxes.

He said he hopes all of the attention will force airlines to look at their bumping policies.

Consumer advocate and frequent flier Gabor Lukacs has taken on the airlines a couple of times now over their bumping practices, and won. (CBC)
Airline passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs noted that, "just this past summer, the Canadian Transportation Agency ordered Porter Airlines to change the way it handles bumped passengers. Now, Porter has to provide compensation in cash to passengers for a bump."

"Unfortunately, Porter particularly apparently, a general trend in the airline industry is there is a big gap between the written rules and what is being done in practice to passengers. And, the biggest problem is that we don't have adequate enforcement," Lukacs said.

Cicero said when Porter's team at the Thunder Bay airport became aware of the circumstances, it was too late to board them on that flight.


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