In February, 10 members of Nova Scotia’s cycling team were set to travel to Atlanta for a training camp. It was an important part of the teams build up ahead of the summer and the 2017 Canada Games which take place in August in Winnipeg. However, travel delays with WestJet have the team so upset with their experience they are planning on taking the airline to court as first reported by CBC.
The trip was a big time and financial commitment for the seven athletes who were training to be in peak condition for the Nova Scotia road team Canada Games selection events and for the three coaches.
When the team was ready for departure, they all got bumped from their flight with almost two days of travel delays, missing luggage and flight changes. As a result, two days of the training camp were missed and they are now looking for compensation. The total cost of the trip was $14,000.
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“It’s the epitome of the horror story you hear about travelling,” said provincial team coach Jon Burgess to the CBC.
When contacted by the CBC, WestJet said the team was bumped because the aircraft had to be switched for a smaller one because of “inclement weather.” No further details were given. The team was then booked on two separate flights leaving the following day by WestJet. One group was to connect through Toronto where they would take a Delta flight to Atlanta.
When they arrived in the airport however, only one of the coaches was booked on the flight to Atlanta. Burgess described being “maximally stressed…Everything that could go wrong, it seems to be going wrong.”
While the one coach took the flight to Atlanta from Toronto, the others flew from Boston and then got a connecting flight to Atlanta. When they arrived in Atlanta 24 hours after they were scheduled to they discovered all their checked luggage including their bikes had not made the journey with them.
“No luggage, no bikes and it sucks,” 16-year-old Calum MacEachen from Mahone Bay, N.S. told CBC. “It’s annoying that you’re planning something big and you just get mishap after mishap.”
The other half of the team were flying through Boston and when they arrived they discovered they weren’t booked on the connecting flight they were told would take them to Atlanta. They were booked on another one set to land the next day two days after their original flight was scheduled to arrive.
By the time the whole team made it to Atlanta, they had lost two days of their schedul10-dayday training camp.
“When you’re taking time off of school and time off of work to go down there, two days is a lot,” said Burgess who works full time as a firefighter. One of the athletes mothers said it cost the family $1,600 for him to attend the trip despite the team getting some funding.
Burgess followed up with WestJet upon arriving back home. WestJet offered each passenger a $150 voucher for a future WestJet flight. That offer was increased to a $200 voucher, the group’s baggage fees and covering the first night of accommodations for the camp. Five athletes and Burgess didn’t get their luggage or bikes until the third day of their trip so the compensation remained insufficient for them.
WestJet rules state that bumped passengers whose trips are delayed by more than two-hours are entitled to 400 per cent of the the flight’s ticket price to a maximum of $1,300 per passenger. Those rules don’t apply if the airline had to downgrade to a smaller aircraft for operational or safety reasons which WestJet said applies to the flight in question because weather forced the change in aircraft. According to CBC, WestJet is currently running a TV ad that says it does not overbook flights which results in passagers being bumped.
“We are sorry the service our guests were provided was clearly not up to the WestJet standards to which we aspire,” a WestJet spokesperson said in an email to CBC News.
The team continues to pursue their case enlisting the services of an airline rights activist as the consider taking legal action to get more compensation for the group.
“It was such a financial investment for a lot of these athletes and parents,” said Burgess who added that’s his main motivation for continuing to pursue the matter. He said that if the efforts are successful, the money would be for the athletes to cover future training expenses and cover some of the loss of the Atlanta trip.