Finance

Travellers run into turbulence before returning home from Cancun on Flair Airlines

A flight between Calgary and Cancun that usually takes around six hours ended up being a three-day affair for one group of Flair Airlines passengers.

“It was a terrible three days. We’re supposed to take off on Sunday, and they just kept pushing the flight back an hour at a time and wouldn’t tell us anything of what was going on,” Tyler Enns told Global News.

Passengers arrived at the Cancun airport early Sunday evening expecting to fly back home with the ultra low cost carrier (ULCC).

More than an hour after their scheduled departure time, the customers received the first of many messages from Flair.

According to multiple passengers Global spoke with, the initial delays were due to unanticipated maintenance, something to do with oxygen tanks.

“We heard there is some problems with the oxygen tank and that was pretty much it. And the next day it was the same thing,” Mirela Balan said.

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Late on Sunday, the passengers were told the airline wasn’t going to fly out that evening, and asked everyone to go back through customs and immigration, and then they were shuttled to area hotels.

Some passengers said they received chips and ham sandwiches, while other passengers said they received butter sandwiches.

The group of travellers returned to the airport on Monday morning, only to be met with more waiting.

“They brought us down like the National Guard and stuff to like surround the area. And they still wouldn’t give us answers. We tried calling Flair customer service. They’re like, ‘Yeah, the flight’s going to be at four. You’re on it.’ It’s like, ‘It’s 4 o’clock and we haven’t started boarding,’” Enns said, noting an absence of Flair staff.


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Riaz Ebrahim, another traveller, said the guards came to the gate because the passengers were asking questions.

“Luckily, my wife spoke a little bit of Spanish, so she was able to translate back and forth,” Ebrahim said, kids in tow.

“We were there at 10 (a.m.) till 8 p.m. in the basement. And it was obviously intended to just to corral us in there with no information. Nothing. So we’re just sitting there. And then in the end, because we started getting mad, they finally gave us a hotel.”

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Click to play video: 'Chaos in Cancun: Flair Airlines cancellations leave tourists stranded in Mexico'


Chaos in Cancun: Flair Airlines cancellations leave tourists stranded in Mexico


On Tuesday morning, the travellers finally got some reprieve.

“There was no communication with them. They just kept on saying, wait an hour, wait two hours, we’ll email you,” Joy Mackay said. “Nothing was solved until this morning, finally.”

All the passengers Global spoke with said they had two sleepless nights and days of frustration before coming back to Canada.

“I am so tired, I just feel like crying. Like I feel tears just coming out just because we got back to Calgary,” Balan said.

The passengers said they were unlikely to book with Flair again.

A Canadian aviation expert said Flair could be facing some severe headwinds in the upcoming months.

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John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University’s aviation management program, told Global News the ULCC has had serious financial issues for a while, and he expects they’re getting worse.

That includes, he said, recent cancellations ahead of the busy travel season.

“If you look at what Flair’s schedule looks like for March, April and May of this year, they’re pulling back,” he said. “There’s over 100 flights that they’ve cancelled.”

“That is not good news if you start doing that this early. Where there is some smoke, there is some fire.”

Gradek added passengers should be “somewhat nervous and concerned,” and while he says he wouldn’t cancel his trip on Flair, he would get some insurance “just in case.”

“Flair is creeping towards a potential showdown with its creditors,” he said. “And Canadians are caught between the crosshairs of that showdown.”

A year ago this month, the airline had four of its planes seized by a U.S.-based leaser amid a commercial dispute. Court documents also show Flair owes Ottawa $67.2 million in unpaid taxes, prompting the federal government to obtain an order for the seizure and sale of the carrier’s property.

Flair Airlines did not return requests for comment from Global News.

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Click to play video: 'Edmonton-based Flair Airlines owes more than $67M in taxes'


Edmonton-based Flair Airlines owes more than $67M in taxes


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