Airline Told Customers Flights Were Cancelled Because Their Destination Was Closed, Even Though it Wasn’t

Airlines aren’t always totally forthcoming the reasons that their flights are delayed or cancelled. For instance,


Copyright: dennizn / 123RF Stock Photo

Airlines have an incentive to blame factors beyond their control for delays. If the cause is weather, air traffic control, or a similar issue they’re going to owe customers a lot less (if anything at all) compared to when a delay is ‘controllable’ or their fault — such as when a flight goes mechanical or when crew simply don’t show up. (EU rules are somewhat stricter.)

Customers can be sitting at their home airport and will get frustrated when they’re delayed by weather only to look out the window at blue skies, knowing weather is clear at their destination. I like United’s effort to notify customers of the reasons for delays in clear language, explaining for instance that weather is causing a delay in the city where the aircraft is coming from.

Any weather anywhere, of course, becomes the reason for delay. It’s an interesting theory of causality the likes of which I remember debating extensively as a college freshman (I was partial to a necessary element of a sufficient set approach).

Last week my flight from Austin to Chicago on American was delayed five hours.

  • The aircraft was in Austin
  • There were no mechanical issues
  • Weather in Austin and Chicago were clear
  • But we had no crew

The reason for the delay was weather (not crew availability) because our crew was inbound from Dallas Fort-Worth where weather was bad. That’s true as far as it goes, though if American were serious about improving on-time performance they’d return to assigning crew to travel with aircraft so delays of a single flight don’t cascade across multiple flights later in the day.

WestJet went far beyond just calling anything possible weather. They just made up excuses not to take care of customers out of whole cloth.

In 2017, WestJet cancelled two of her flights from Toronto to Turks and Caicos, scheduled for Sept. 9 and Nov. 15.

The cancellations affected many WestJet passengers, who received refunds, but often had to pay extra to rebook trips on other airlines in order to salvage their travel plans.

Following a CBC News investigation in late 2017, WestJet revealed that it didn’t cancel the flights due to airport closures — as it had told passengers. Instead, the cancellations were a “business decision,” made after both Turks and Caicos and Santa Clara had been hit by Hurricane Irma and were attracting fewer tourists

The Canadian Transportation Agency gave WestJet ‘a formal warning’ over the falsehood, but didn’t require that they compensate passengers who were forced to buy more expensive tickets to complete their journey. Five individuals filing complaints with the agency fared better with compensation from the airline.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. What is the financial benefit for NOT keeping crews with a single plane? I would think there’d be a lot less crew delayed flights.

  2. @Shaun planes can be utilized much longer per 24 hours than crews can … unless flight timings work such that crews can be changed out when planes come back through a hub, sometimes the crew needs to meet the plane elsewhere

  3. With a potential TWU-IAM Association strike on the horizon because American Airlines refuses to bargain with the Association, maybe passengers will be told DFW is closed even though it isn’t.

  4. I had this exact problem a few weeks ago when an AA flight from DFW to FLL was cancelled due to a lack of available pilots. AA blamed weather – it was the day of the thunder-snow in Chicago – but when several passengers complained vociferously the agent in charge decided to issue hotel and meal vouchers for passengers who needed overnight lodging.

    You are absolutely correct about AA’s crew assignment policy.

  5. Um, is there anybody who actually flies Westjet??? ……Westjet???…if so, WHY? seriously?

  6. @Dean Yours is a good question for someone who never travels north of the 49th parallel. WestJet is the head-on competition to Air Canada for routes within Canada and increasingly a competitor for AC’s international routes. Both fleets are about a quarter to a fifth the size of any of the largest US carriers. These two dominate the Canadian market because of cabotage rules and their duopoly beahavour earns them healthy margins. This extra edge allows them to provide a marginally better product as folks who fly regularly in both countries will attest.

  7. A few years ago, I was scheduled from DEN to CLT on UA. Equipment was en route and on time. However, before it arrived, that equipment was switched to a flight DEN-AUS. The equipment switched in for the CLT flight was sitting on the ground in COS with mechanical issues. After about 4+ hours of delays, long past when all connecting options had departed, UA cancelled the flight on the basis of “mechanical issues,” so no compensation. Why that situation is not considered under the airline’s control is beyond me.

  8. @ColoRoy I have always demanded mechanical issues be compensated (not with bullshit apology miles but with food and lodging where necessary) and I can’t think of a single time, other than one instance with Continental at Newark, where there was a problem with that. Keeping planes running intact to the extent they can service the schedule the airline publishes is the responsibility of the airline.

  9. I had a incident a few years ago flying out of Cusco Peru. The airline LanPeru upon taxing out to the runway indicated to its passengers that because of high winds it was unable to fly with a full load of passengers and asked for 10 volunteers to relinquish their seats to allow the plane to take off. We were asked to leave the plane (our luggage stayed on) and a group of French tourists then took off to Lima. Planes only fly out of Cusco in the morning. We were stranded in Cusco without luggage and toiletries. Lan gave us $25.00 for incidentals, a room for the night (I might add that the hotel wanted to charge for heaters which we declined to pay) and because the next day we had to appear at the airport early there wasn’t any breakfast.

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