‘Heartbreaking’: Canadians Recount Travel Plans Foiled by Flight Nightmares

By Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
July 12, 2022 Updated: July 12, 2022

Thousands of delayed and cancelled Canadian flights have caused enormous hassles in recent weeks.

In the last week of June, more than half of domestic and international flights at Canada’s major airports were delayed or cancelled. The Epoch Times heard from three Canadians whose travel plans were frustrated on June 30 for different reasons.

A Wing and a Prayer (Barely)

Faytene Grasseschi had a morning flight scheduled from Moncton, New Brunswick, on June 30 with a stop in Toronto on the way to Winnipeg to attend a national prayer event on Canada Day. But the wing and the prayer almost didn’t happen. On her way to the airport, she received a notice from WestJet that the flight had been delayed until evening.

Once at the airport, Grasseschi spent 90 minutes in line trying unsuccessfully to book a different flight on the phone.

“I never got through on the phone ever. But I finally did get through to the front of the line and the ladies there, to their credit, were awesome. All of the staff, at least here in New Brunswick, were just amazing. They’re just dealing with the hand that they’ve been given,” Grasseschi said in an interview.

The staff told Grasseschi she might miss her connecting flight in Toronto, but that she could try. After arriving at Pearson Airport, a staff person told her she was too late and that she had been rerouted and would be flying out the next day.

“I said, ‘If it’s OK, I’m going to actually try to catch the flight,’” she recalled.

“I just ran. One of the escalators was broken. I’m like, OK, where am I going? At this point, I’m just following the signs and giving this my best shot. So I just kept running. I’m absolutely dry heaving—that raw [feeling where] your chest is pounding.”

Grasseschi arrived to find 20 people in front of her in line for the flight. Then, after boarding, the plane didn’t leave for at least 30 minutes. She finally arrived in Winnipeg at midnight and got to her hotel at 1 a.m. on Canada Day.

“I think I’m the rare person that would have actually tried to make that flight,” she said.

“The one thing for me that was really heartbreaking was a lady right behind me in line that was trying to get to her son’s wedding. … People are used to a functional airline system. People aren’t used to this.”

‘Systemic Failure at Every Level’

Caitlin Preston was scheduled to fly Air Canada from Regina to Montreal via Saskatoon on June 30. But the teacher with the Prairie Gael School of Irish Dance never made it to watch her students compete at the North American championships held July 15.

Her flight was delayed three hours and 40 minutes after boarding, she said, as the passengers had to get off due to an electrical problem where a light wouldn’t shut off.

“Then they decided after about 40 minutes that they were going to just fly to Saskatoon and not Montreal. And so I just hung out for a minute because I just got the vibe that it was a little bit disorganized and they didn’t really know what was going on yet,” Preston recalled in an interview.

Air Canada changed its mind and announced the flight would be direct to Montreal instead. Then they flip-flopped back to Saskatoon only, then back to Montreal only. Preston went back through security and was told her flight was cancelled

She received a message later that she had been rebooked with the original Regina-Saskatoon-Montreal itinerary but for the morning of July 1. A subsequent message said that flight was also cancelled.

Then on Friday morning, a dance family that was at the airport leaving called her, saying, “They’re paging you to get on the plane to Vancouver.” That flight would have taken her to Montreal via Vancouver, but she didn’t make it and couldn’t find another flight that would work.

And she’s unsure if she’ll get a refund. “I’ve filled out the air passenger rights form, and they said, ‘Don’t expect to hear from us for a month,’” she said.

Preston called it “heartbreaking” as “that was going to be my first North American [championships] getting to see my dancers dance as a teacher. … And I think it was a bit hard on the kids too, because they are at this major competition without their coach.”

“With everything starting to recover, part of that recovery is being able to travel and trying to run my business. A large part of that is travelling to competitions,” she added.

“It seems like it’s a pretty systemic failure at every level, so I just I hope they can get it sorted out. If it’s a staffing issue, then hire people. And if it’s an organizational issue, then find somebody who can help.”

Kids Let Down

Grade 8 French Immersion graduates at École St. Mary and École St. Angela Merici in Regina were set to do a weeklong tour of Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec starting June 30. However, a series of flight delays made the trip unfeasible, leading to its cancellation.

Trevor Sobchyshyn’s daughter was among those affected.

“The kids were really excited and were let down last minute hard. She fundraised and worked a paper route for 1.5 years to prepare for it and now it’s nothing,” Sobchyshyn told The Epoch Times.

EF Tours is refunding the approximately $2,800 in costs for the seven-day trip.

“A couple years ago, 2020, when COVID first hit and the world shut down, all those trips just got lost.  No refunds and no trip vouchers,” Sobchyshyn said.

“I am annoyed that Canada is a joke on the international stage—most flights cancelled in the world and most chaos in airports worldwide,” he added. “Excuses, excuses, that’s all I see. Too much talk and not enough action.”

The Epoch Times emailed WestJet, Air Canada, and Swoop for responses but didn’t hear back.

Lee Harding
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.