Porter Airlines: brace for turbulence

Randy Simms
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The stranded passengers from last Sunday’s Porter Airlines flight should initiate a class-action lawsuit and take the company to court.

The entire comedy of errors and corporate disregard for the people involved should be addressed by the justice system.

I can’t help but think that a good judge, hearing their story of desertion, would side with the passengers and award them compensation.

Consider what happened here: on April 27, 74 passengers were on a flight from Halifax to St. John’s. Before they arrived, it was reported that fog — a condition we’re all familiar with — had moved in and the plane couldn’t land in the capital city.

Porter diverted the aircraft to Stephenville and left passengers there to fend for themselves. According to Porter, the weary travellers were offered two options: stay aboard and head back to Halifax, or make their own way home from the west coast.

If they went back to Halifax Porter would book them on another flight, but perhaps not until May 2. That meant a week in Nova Scotia waiting, or else paying money to another airline to get home.

It wasn’t much of a choice.

Sixty-three people left the aircraft and had to make their own arrangements to get back to St. John’s.

According to passenger reports there were no Porter staff available to them when they landed, other than the crew, and there were no airport personnel on hand to retrieve their luggage. The pilot  had to go into the cargo bay with a flashlight to pull out suitcases for those leaving the aircraft.

The entire episode sounds like bad fiction. No image-conscious company, especially one in as competitive a field as aviation, can afford this kind of bad publicity. Porter has taken a lot of heat over this, and rightly so. These passengers ended up paying a lot of extra money to get to their destination, and that’s not fair.

Every passenger on that plane had a contract with the airline, and it’s pretty simple: I pay the agreed upon price and you commit to get me to my destination. If you fail to do so, it means you did not honour the contract.

At the very least I should get my money back.

Airlines are quick to say that weather issues are out of their hands so you can’t blame them if they can’t get you to your destination. That means the onus is on the customer to decide whether they should fly or not because of impending bad weather, and the company is off the hook. Can you imagine telling an airline you’ve decided not to fly and the company refunding your fare?

Porter failed in its duty to these customers and didn’t make an effort to honour their contracts. Had they kept the aircraft in Stephenville to wait for better weather in St. John’s, no one would have been able to argue that they abandoned their customers.

Dumping them and flying off to maintain someone else’s schedule looks as bad as it sounds.  

What the passengers need is an aggressive young lawyer to review  the fine print associated with purchasing an airline ticket.

There must be a means of getting these airline executives before a judge — one who wants to help write some new laws.

It’s a sad situation, because Porter is one airline that’s worked hard to build a solid reputation for good customer service. That reputation took a hit this week.

The bottom line? You do not abandon your passengers, even if the problem is caused by bad weather. If, at some point, you must leave them, then compensate them for the inconvenience.

For several years there’s been a movement to have a passenger bill of rights passed in Parliament to protect airline travellers.

The Porter incident shows just how much it’s needed.

Randy Simms is a political commentator and broadcaster. He can be reached at

rsimms@nf.sympatico.ca

Twitter: @RandyRsimms

Geographic location: Halifax, Stephenville, Nova Scotia

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  • Weary traveller
    May 04, 2014 - 11:08

    Lots of bad air travel stories. We were scheduled to fly from Newark to St. John's via Montreal on April 27th (last Sunday morning) with Air Canada. When we got to the airport 2.5 hrs in advance, were told flight was cancelled due to weather, perfect day there and when I asked where the "bad weather" was they couldn't tell me. What they did tell us was that all flights were overbooked until May 1st out of Newark! S nice it was a "weather" problem the airline took no responsibility for our expenses . After much discussion these are the options we were provided: 1) wait around the airport in case could get out Standby but all flights overbooked for next several days so that was unlikely; 2) stay in NYC at our own expense til May 1st when we could get seats, or 3) they could get us on flight as far as Toronto out of LeGuardia airport the following day. Again transportation to LeGuardia, overnight hotel and meals not covered by Air Canada. We chose this option as we have family an hour from Toronto we could stay with til we could get a flight home. The trip to LaGuardia that was supposed to take 45 minutes took 3 hours due to an accident on the highway and road construction plus cost $34 pp for the shuttle! We did make it to Toronto the following morning but despite continuous efforts couldn't get a flight home til Thursday night (May 1st), losing 4 days of work! Needless to say, Air Canada's corporate office will be hearing from me this week! Personally I believe the "weather" excuse was given so they didn't have to provide assistance. I feel especially bad for anyone who doesn't have the financial means to deal with this type of delay, I guess Air Canada expects them to camp out in the terminal building until airline 'service' can be provided.

    • john
      May 05, 2014 - 08:55

      wake up idiot this is an article about porter