WATERLOO REGION — Flair Airlines leads the nation in passenger complaints, and once again the discount airline is saying sorry and pledging to do better.
Flair has brought a surge of passengers to the Region of Waterloo International Airport after regional government gave it temporary, exclusive rights to certain routes in 2021.
New data from the Canadian Transportation Agency shows Flair drew 21 passenger complaints per 100 flights in the first three months of this year. That’s twice the complaints made against WestJet and almost four times the complaints against Air Canada.
“We at Flair acknowledge our past customer service performance,” airline president Stephen Jones said in a statement.
Jones said the airline is taking steps to improve customer service. He said the same in 2021 before Flair went on to generate the most passenger complaints (per flight) among Canadian airlines for the year between April 2022 and March 2023.
Here’s how Flair currently pledges to do better for frustrated passengers:
- The airline says it improved its operations in May by completing 99 per cent of flights with 82 per cent on time. That’s up from 98 per cent of flights completed in April with 74 per cent on time.
- The airline says it has established a dedicated team in Montreal to handle complaints logged with the Canadian Transportation Agency. The airline claims to resolve cases within seven days compared to 90 days last year.
- The airline says it has no backlog in processing complaints to the Better Business Bureau.
“These recent developments demonstrate Flair’s dedication to improving our customer service and addressing past shortcomings,” Jones said. “We are committed to delivering a better experience for our passengers and ensuring their satisfaction.”
Flair is the nation’s third largest airline with 19 aircraft. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has warned Flair passengers to be aware that when Flair delays or cancels flights, the federal government allows the airline to provide lesser compensation than Air Canada or WestJet.
“When you book a flight with a smaller airline, just know that the size of the compensation is different,” Alghabra told reporters in May at the regional airport.
“It is reasonable to understand that smaller airlines don’t have as many planes available as larger airlines in order for them to immediately provide alternative travel for their passengers.
“It’s also important to ensure that we create an environment that nurtures smaller airlines so they can grow and become larger airlines, so they are able to be held to the larger airline standard.”
Air Canada and WestJet must rebook passengers within two days if a flight is cancelled, even if this means seating them on a competing airline. Flair passengers may wait weeks to be rebooked.
Flair owes passengers $125 to $500 in compensation depending on how long it delays a flight, or for a cancellation within its control. Air Canada and WestJet owe passengers $400 to $1,000.
Flair has brought passengers and drama to the expanding regional airport.
In March, the airline failed to pay leases on four Boeing 737 jetliners (including one based at the regional airport) which were then repossessed in the middle of the night. Seizures disrupted travel plans for almost 2,000 passengers.
Last November, no one was hurt when a Flair jetliner ran 150 metres off a runway into the mud while landing at the regional airport. A federal safety board is investigating.
In 2021, the federal government threatened to yank Flair’s operating licence over concerns the airline is not Canadian enough under federal law. The airline made changes and kept its licence.
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