Passenger not pleased with Porter

Andrew Robinson
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Says airline left travellers in lurch with unplanned stop in Stephenville

Emma Young’s vacation got off to a great start with a visit to Montreal to attend a Cher concert, but flying back home to St. John’s did not go as planned.

Porter Airlines taxiing out at St. John’s airport. — File photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Young is not impressed with how Porter Airlines treated her and dozens of other travellers.

“I’ve never been treated so poorly,” Young said Monday afternoon, shortly after completing a 10-hour drive from Stephenville to St. John’s. “I always say, ‘I’ll never fly Air Canada.’ But now I would gladly fly Air Canada instead of Porter.”

This change of heart comes a day after Porter flight 255 failed to land in St. John’s on a foggy Sunday after departing from Halifax. According to Young, passengers were informed prior to departure from Halifax that the plane may not land in St. John’s. It would proceed to Stephenville for refuelling before either attempting another landing in St. John’s or returning to Halifax.

The plane circled St. John’s International Airport for approximately one hour before leaving for Stephenville to refuel. It arrived in Stephenville at 9 p.m.

“At that point in time they told us that coming back to St. John’s to try to land was not an option, that the company had said they want the flight back in Halifax.”

A pilot later presented two options to the passengers — go back to Halifax and possibly wait until Friday for a flight to St. John’s, or get off the plane in Stephenville.

In both scenarios, the passengers would be responsible for the cost of accommodations and getting home.

Staying in Halifax those extra five nights would cost at least $1,000 for those with no friends or family in the area, according to Young, who managed to rent a car with her mother at a cost of $800. That rental cost includes an additional charge for not returning the car to Stephenville.

Young said passengers were aware of other flights landing in St. John’s by checking their cellphones. The airport in Stephenville was closed and there were no Porter agents at the airport. The airline  is set to introduce a route between Stephenville and Halifax in late June.

They remained on the plane for another two hours while passengers decided what they would do. At this point, there was no water on the plane.

“We couldn’t talk to anyone,” said Young, who did however compliment the crew and captain for dealing with a tough situation as well as they could. The captain had to use a flashlight to unload and locate the luggage of the 63 passengers who elected to get off the plane, which seats 74.

A request to have Porter pay for a bus to transport passengers was denied, according to Young.

“They turned their backs on us completely,” she said. “Once we were off the plane, we were no longer their problem and they did nothing for us.”

Young feels passengers deserve compensation for the extra expenses they incurred, but the airline  maintains when weather is a factor, the passenger is responsible for all costs.

“They were told it was their choice (to get off in Stephenville), but any costs for ground transportation or accommodation was their responsibility because the circumstances were weather related,” a Porter spokesman told The Telegram in an email.

“Assistance of this type is typically provided for situations within the airline’s control, such as mechanical delays.”

According to the airliner, passengers were told prior to departing Sunday from Halifax they would get a refund if they chose not to travel and instead booked the next available flight. That would still have entailed possibly waiting in Halifax until Friday.

“We always look at alternatives, such as adding extra flights, to help passengers in situations like this,” wrote the Porter spokesman.

“However, when so many passengers decided to deplane in Stephenville, the need to do so in this case was less urgent because the remaining customers could be accommodated in more reasonable time frames. Passengers were given the best and most accurate information at the time, but this doesn’t account for subsequent efforts to improve the situation. For example, had everyone returned to Halifax, we would make every effort to get them a flight as soon as possible (sooner than five days) based on factors such as aircraft and crew availability.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Air Canada, International Airport, The Telegram

Geographic location: Stephenville, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • craig alward
    April 30, 2014 - 08:56

    I was stranded for 3 days on westjet last year trying to get to NL and they paid for everything... they were awesome

  • Sam
    April 29, 2014 - 17:01

    Good grief, read the article again. The rental was for a car to drive from Stephenville to St John's, the $800 included a fee for the car not being returned to the rental agent in Stephenville, as the car would have been left in St. John's Anyway, when you travel, you assume the risk that unforeseen circumstances may arise, which is why you purchase travel insurance, and make sure you have extra money to fall back on.

  • Andrew
    April 29, 2014 - 14:54

    After reading the comments below, I am a little surprised by some. I would like to pose a question to all...... What is the proper procedure for an airline when a plane is diverted to an alternate airport? Safety? Obviously. Is Financial compensation required?.....Maybe, maybe not....... But should customer service or support be available to help the stranded passengers and the Porter staff deal with issues? Absolutely. When Porter dropped off passengers at Stephenville there was no representation by a Porter employee except the Pilot....who was experiencing his first stop there. The passengers who deplaned found no help in finding options for accommodations or travel.....The customer service office was closed in Toronto(I could be wrong on the exact location) so no one could answer questions about the for mentioned issues or where the lost luggage was. I know this because I was in the office with the Pilot and passengers with lost luggage trying to find my carry on that was gate checked and somehow got lost. The poor Pilot was run ragged from trying to answer questions after unloading the luggage. I'm not sure if he also fuelled up the plane but I wouldn't doubt he did that as well. The bottom line is that there was no customer service or support to help us. So in reading this please put yourselves in the shoes of the people involved and ask yourself a simple question......What is the proper procedure for an airline when a plane is diverted to an alternate airport?

  • tina
    April 29, 2014 - 14:15

    I am fully aware that the airlines do not control the weather however when I book and pay an airline for a flight , I do not expect to play Russian roulette and take a chance on if I will get to my destination, I expect to get where I paid to go in the first place. I have 2 family members that flew with AC and West Jet at different times and both got diverted to Gander because of weather in St.John's, however both those airlines rented a bus for their passengers and ensured they passengers reached the destination they paid for. The situation has no reflection on the flight crew as they were very polite and helped as much as possible. I believe that Porter should have rented a bus for their paying customers at the very least. I paid $550 for a return flight to Montreal and then $1000 to rent a car for 9 hrs to get to my original destination. How can ANYONE think this is fair ? The flight from Halifax should have been cancelled and would have been more than happy to sleep in the airport than to circle St.John's airport for an hour, spend 2 hrs sitting on the tarmac and then drive 9 hrs to get home !!!

    April 29, 2014 - 14:09

    I Rented a Car From Charlottetown PEI Airport To St John's NL Airport.. $250.00....$800.00 from Stephenville. Total Crazy. Insurance Company's in Newfoundland Another Rip Off. I Pay $515.00 For Full Coverage For a New Car. In PEI ......NL I Paid $1100.00... Before I Move Here. Rip Off Province

  • Karen Dawe
    April 29, 2014 - 13:36

    My husband and I were on this flight to St. John's. We boarded the plane in Ottawa for our return flight to St. John's. I feel the Porter could have handled the situtation a little better, given the fact that they knew we were flying to Stephenville. A bus could have been provided (even if we had to wait in the airport until it arrived)to take us to St. John's. However, after saying that, my husband and I decided that we would go back to Halifax as we have friends who are 30 mins from the airport and could come and get us. All while we were at the airport in Stephenville the cabin crew were very helpful, answered all questions to the best of their ability and never once rude. After those who departed and found other means of travel, we had to wait for another flight route. From the time we landed in Stephenville and departed again for Halifax three hours or more had passed. When we arrived in Halifax, Porter personnal were on site with food vouchers and hotel accomodation vouchers (at the ALT) ready for us and for those who did not come back. And we were booked on the next available flight by Porter which was on Thursday, May 1st. We also told them to call if seats became available earlier than that date. We choose to stay with our friends and told Porter personnel that we didn't need the vouchers, but they insisted that we take them just in case. At 2:30 pm Monday afternoon we got our call to be at the airport for a 5pm departure. I know things could have been handled better, but for those who decided to stay and return to Halifax were treated with utmost respect and care. We will be flying again with Porter and look forward to booking the next flight!

    • tina baird
      April 29, 2014 - 13:57

      Hi Karen , I am glad to hear that you were given the option of food and hotel however while we were waiting on the plane in Stephenville , that was not explained to us and I wonder if all 76 passengers flew back to Halifax, would all be given the same accommodations. The flight should have been cancelled in the first place but Porter chose not to cancel and therefore we were left with no choice but to get on the plane or pay for a later flight.

  • Tim
    April 29, 2014 - 13:08

    Boo hoo lady, Porter doesn't control the weather.

    • tina
      April 29, 2014 - 14:30

      There is no reason why Porter could not rent a bus to ensure their paying customers arrived at the destination they paid for. The have been several other airlines who have done this when the plane had to divert to Gander.

  • get over it
    April 29, 2014 - 11:53

    Man, things happen when you travel. If you bothered to read the fine print when you book a ticket, you would know you are responsible for expenses incurred if your flight cannot land due to weather. That's what travel insurance is for. Get over it. Suck it up. It could have been worse.

    • Yep
      April 29, 2014 - 13:21

      Agreed. It sucks, but you always roll the dice with the weather when you travel to and from Newf.

  • Telegramreader
    April 29, 2014 - 11:47

    I want to say so many things about this but first and foremost, I have a question! Her story begins stating that she had to take a 10 hour drive from Stephenville to St. John's to catch the Porter flight. Then, her return flight was 'diverted' to a weather alternate (STEPHENVILLE)! So, why did she have to take a rent a car to go back to St. John's? How fortunate that she was diverted to her original departure point! From my standpoint, it actually saved her a 10 hour drive back from St. John's to Stephenville, correct? Anyway, as usual, a disgruntled passenger who believe the airlines have full control over God and His weather! Porter, like every Airline (Air Canada included), clearly detail their 'weather provisions' to passengers. One would have to be living under a rock to say they were unaware what would entail in the event of a deteriorated weather situation. GO ahead, down Porter Airlines this time and next time take Air Canada and see what they will do for you if you come across the exact same scenario. Oh, and regarding other aircraft landing into St. John's at that same time, every aircraft have different takeoff/landing limitations! another piece of information you were obviously really unaware of before you decided to contact the media with your complaint.

    • Grounded
      April 29, 2014 - 12:26

      Re-read the article. That is not at all what it says. Porter should not have left them in Stephenville, that is absurd. Also, the parameters for a porter flight landing is much lower than an Air Canada one, which all landed that night. There is an issue there.

    • Brad
      April 29, 2014 - 12:33

      Actually, AC did provide me accomodations for the night and ground transportation for the next day when I missed a connection due to a snowstorm. Whodafunkit!?

  • Wanda
    April 29, 2014 - 11:23

    If Porter knew there was even a little bit of a chance that they could not land in St. John's, they should never have left in the first place. On another note they should have all been brought back to Montreal, Halifax was a stopover. If PORTER took the chance to take to the air, then PORTER should be held responsible for their passengers to arrive in St. John's without the extra expensive to them. I thank you in advance for this warning.......I WILL NEVER FLY PORTER. and I travel at least 3 times a year.(was always afraid to try these guys now I know why). I hope that every person that was on that flight writes their comment. Every body should be aware of this if they fly PORTER.

  • Sabrina
    April 29, 2014 - 09:22

    What people fail to understand is when they tell you at check-in/boarding that you are responsible for your own cost if the plane is unable to land due to weather that it means exactly that. You are given a choice. To fly or not to fly. Its the chance you take and when you accept to fly, regardless you accept that chance. Its not as if they didn't warn you. This decision/policy has no reflection on Porter alone.. this is world wide with all airlines such as PAL, AC, WestJet.. so if you chose to rethink about flying with Porter then you should rethink flying at all. Weather is unforeseen and you can not control it. Airlines have restrictions for flying in all types of weather and this various from aircraft to aircraft and airline to airline. Because one landed dose not mean the other can. When these restrictions are not followed then that is how accidents happen. I'm sure you would much rather be alive and out $800 then injured or dead. As frustrating as it can be... it part of life. As for the rental.. A hotel and bus ticket would have been a lot cheaper. So really not something that should be reflected on Porter but more a poor decision on your part. There is no situation that cant be dealt with.. its how you choose to deal with it. Your story will do nothing to change the weather policies of Porter or any other airline for weather delays' /cancellations but will hopefully open the eyes of the next traveler who when they are told your at your own expense if we don't land due to weather, they will believe them.

    • Susan Evoy
      April 29, 2014 - 11:06

      I was on the flight the whole time from Toronto to Ottawa and then Ottawa to Halifax and then Halifax to St. John's. At no point was I informed that there was a weather advisory. Passengers who boarded in Halifax may have been told, but those of us already on the plane were not.

    • Shandelle
      April 29, 2014 - 11:46

      It is not the policy of every airline. I had the exact same scenario happen when flying with West Jet a couple of years ago and we ended up flying back to Halifax (there were no rentals in Stephenville). West Jet took of every cost: food vouchers, hotel expenses paid for and our tickets rebooked for free. We even received a $50 vouchers for a future flight. So it's not the policy of every airline, at least not West Jet!

    • Yep
      April 29, 2014 - 13:24

      Well said.

  • Sara
    April 29, 2014 - 09:15

    I work for another airline and as far as I know this is a normal operating procedure with all airlines. I don't understand what the issue is. It was unsafe to land, the crew only has so many duty hours to fly before fatigue becomes an issue and you were warned before you left that you may not land. But travel insurance next time. Porter is awesome, I've had nothing but excellent service from them.

  • Jane
    April 29, 2014 - 07:51

    No matter what airline you fly with. If you advised that there is a weather advisory at your destination it is always up to you to take on any additional coat of the plane being diverted to another destination, hotels etc. there are flights from yjt every weekday morning with other airline and also multiple flights daily from ydf. It could have been much less costly For them.

    • Cassandra
      April 29, 2014 - 10:01

      My friend was on this flight and was FURIOUS (to say the least) with Porter's "Customer Service". The passengers were not compensated for the overnight stay in Stephenville, they were not offered meal vouchers/taxi vouchers/bus vouchers....they were offered nothing!!! Luckily another friend of ours has a friend who lives in Stephenville . He picked her up, gave her a place to stay and drove her to the DRL bus station the next morning, and luckily she had cash because DRL apparently doesn't take debit or Visa. She also missed an day of work. What a total NIGHTMARE! Porter... you must realize that word of mouth goes a long way....especially here in Newfoundland. You should be ashamed of yourself. How about saving grace and refunding the patrons of this flight.....that would be the right thing to do....but I won't hold my breath on that one. Your customer loyalty and your integrity leave a lot to be desired.

  • Julie
    April 29, 2014 - 07:06

    If you pay for a ticket to bring you to a certain location, I don't care WHAT happens, the money you already paid should get you to wherever it is you were heading. This is totally ridiculous and will make me rethink flying Porter in the future.

  • Janice
    April 29, 2014 - 06:47

    I would like to know the name of the car rental agency that charged $800 for a one day rental? It looks like somebody else ripped off the Young's if this is the truth? Regardless, I bus ticket would have cost much less, even if they had to stay at a hotel in Stephenville for a night. This cost was their choice, so I don't agree with that as being reflective on Porter. In regards to Porter, that is outrageous. If they were unable to transport passengers to St. John's, they should have been responsible for getting them bussed. You just can't leave them stranded like that.

  • citizen
    April 28, 2014 - 23:12

    nice stab in the back by deer lake/corner brook to ensure that stephenville airport dont become a threat to the dragstrip they call deer lake airport.....nasty reporting by the western star as usual. Very biased reporting despite the customers unfortunate experience. Anyone who has flown into Deer Lake on a windy day can relate to the terror you feel flying over the approach to deer lake

  • Tony Young
    April 28, 2014 - 22:08

    Passengers flying on any airline should ALWAYS have travel insurance. If these passengers had insurance, they could have had a hotel for the night in Stephenville and paid for last minute tickets on the PAL flight the next morning at 7:40am from Stephenville to St. John's or the DRL bus from Stephenville to St. John's at 9:30am. Regardless of the price of the ticket they would have been refunded by the insurance the total cost of Air fare to get home from Stephenville as well as Taxi cost and meals. So many people travel and don't every consider insurance. This could have also happened on Air Canada or WestJet.

    • Andrew
      April 29, 2014 - 09:53

      I think Tony is missing the point. We were dropped of in an airport that was closed at 9pm at night. We bypassed much easier points of departure like Gandet or Deer Lake and ended up in Stephenville. The pilot and crew had never been there before either which caused for added confusion. They seemed to also just have been left to fend for themselves by Porter. To me this is not as much a financial burden as it is a total lack of respect toward their customers. We landed in Stephenville and were given an ultimatum.... Get off here and find your way home or come back to Halifax and we can get you out 5 days later. That's it. The fact that they refused to give any further help or compensation just added to the mess.

    • Becky
      April 29, 2014 - 19:34

      Well said Tony. I think Andrew down below is a bit confused. Everyone is saying that Porter "stranded" them in Stephenville, but it was the passengers who choose to get off the aircraft. These passengers had to of have some kind of game plan for themselves. Who decides it's a good idea to get off the aircraft in a foreign city? Like one of the passengers on the flight said before, when they returned back to YHZ those passengers were taken care of. And like you said Tony, Provincial Airlines was a very good option to take the next morning instead of renting a car. I think these passengers are just upset because they don't know how to think for themselves.