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Air Canada should face more consequences after two disruptions in a week, consumer advocate says

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An airline consumer advocate says Air Canada should face tougher consequences for stranding passengers after two disruptions in a week.

Gábor Lukács, president of Air Passenger Rights, said Canadian airlines such as Air Canada currently don’t face enough consequences from the government each time they delay or cancel a flight.

“It feels like the airlines just have a free pass,” Lukasc told CTVNews.ca in an interview Friday.

Air Canada’s operations were jolted not once but twice in a span of seven days, impacting over 670 flights combined. On May 25, 241 Air Canada flights were delayed, and 19 were cancelled. This past Thursday, 362 flights were delayed and 48 cancelled, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.

Air Canada said the recently implemented system used to communicate with aircraft and monitor the performance of its operations was having technical problems.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca yesterday, the airline confirmed that both incidents occurred in the same system but were unrelated.

Currently, a traveller is entitled to between $125 and $1,000 in compensation for delays up to three hours or more, unless the disruption is a result of events beyond the airline’s control.

However, Lukács said he believes Air Canada is gatekeeping what really happened so they don’t have to pay passengers compensation.

“I’m confident that this is within the airline’s control,” Lukasc said.

The federal government has plans to strengthen the Air Passenger Protection Regulations. The proposed policy amendments would increase the maximum penalty for airline violations to $250,000, and hold airlines to regulatory costs of complaints.

Air Canada said no one was available for an interview on Friday.

By Friday afternoon, the Montreal-based airline told CTVNews.ca through an email statement the communicator system was stabilized and “it is functioning normally.”

However, “due to the effects of Thursday's IT issues on our schedule, some flights may be delayed this morning as we reposition aircraft and crew,” Air Canada said.

There were 164 Air Canada flights, or 30 per cent of the airline's scheduled load, had been delayed Friday as of 6:00 p.m. EDT, along with 36 cancellations, as seen on FlightAware.

Additionally, Air Canada Rouge had 62 flights delayed and 25 cancellations.

“That’s absurd, especially for a massive huge airline like Air Canada,” said Lukács.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the ministry has been in touch with Air Canada since the situation began, but did not confirm whether the airline could face any consequences, including fines.

“We expect all air carriers, including Air Canada, to uphold their obligations to keep passengers safe and protect their rights, and ensure all delays and cancellations are mitigated as soon as possible,” Alghabra’s office said in an email statement sent to CTVNews.ca on Friday.

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