Boeing 737 MAX 8 grounding frustrates stranded YYZ passengers

Jane Stevenson

Frustrated Air Canada passengers found their flights cancelled Wednesday after the Transport Ministry’s decision to ban Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9 jets from Canadian airspace.

About 15 passengers were seen waiting around the Air Canada ticketing area Pearson Airport’s Terminal 1 early Wednesday afternoon, told to use phones at the other end of the terminal to rebook their flights — many getting no service tones, long waiting times or not getting through at all.

Stephen and his wife arrived at the airport at 1 p.m. for their 4:50 p.m. Air Canada flight to West Palm Beach, only to spend the afternoon attempting to find alternate arrangements to their destination.

“There’s no communication,” he said, describing himself as a seasoned flier over the past 12 years — used to all manner of bad travel experiences.

“Never in my history of travel have I found (such) a lack of transparency — I understand the airlines are scrambling in the background, but a lack of clarity for the ground staff here is concerning.”

He questions Air Canada’s priorities in the matter, saying he’d spoken to more reports on Wednesday than airline management.

“The press can come and talk to me, but no management from Air Canada wants to come and talk to me,” he added.

“I get more respect from my cat.”

Transport Minister Marc Garneau grounded the troubled Boeing airliners in the wake of Sunday’s fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed all 157 people on board, including 18 Canadians.

Air Canada, Westjet and Sunwing, all users of the aircraft, released statements Wednesday voicing their support for the decision and promising full fee waivers for impacted travellers.

“Given the magnitude of our 737 MAX operations which on average carry nine to twelve thousand customers per day, customers can expect delays in rebooking and in reaching Air Canada call centres,” read part of AC’s statement.

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 sits grounded at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, on Wednesday March 13, 2019. Stan Behal / Toronto Sun

Jodie Allenor’s parents spent three hours driving her from Kincardine, Ont. to YYZ for a 4 p.m. Air Canada flight to Phoenix to visit her sister, but discovered enroute the flight had been cancelled.

She showed up at the airport anyway, hoping to get on an evening flight.

“Some Air Canada staff didn’t even realize the flight had been cancelled,” she said, adding issues with her central nervous system means she has problems dealing with stress.

“I am struggling — I don’t feel like I’m being taken care of at all.”