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'Very troubling:' Passenger rights advocate says Swoop failed Canadians – CBC.ca

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An air passenger rights advocate says the botched Swoop Airlines flight from Cancun to Hamilton is an example of how Canada’s new compensation rules fail to serve the public.

Gabor Lukacs, founder of Air Passenger Rights, tells CBC News he thinks Swoop — which was supposed to bring home 158 Canadians from Cancún to Hamilton Tuesday — will try to “hide behind loopholes” but says passengers should try and sue under an older statue that is still in effect.

Those schedule to board Flight WO651 say they had trouble getting information from the airline, were offered “dingy” places to stay in unsafe areas of Cancún without transportation and in some cases, told they’d need to wait days for a new flight home. 

“It’s incredibly troubling. It demonstrates how poorly the situation was handled,” Lukacs says.

Swoop told CBC News Wednesday it cancelled the trip set to land at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport after a flight attendant on the plane was injured inbound to Cancún International Airport before Flight WO651.

“Industry regulations stipulate that we cannot operate a flight without a full complement of flight attendants,” the airline wrote in a statement.

Lukacs says Swoop, which is owned by WestJet, should have had a back-up crew.

“This is not an unusual situation and it’s a perfectly reasonable expectation to have a backup crew at a popular destination,” he says.

Lukacs also adds the airline should have immediately rebooked flights to other airlines and offered transportation to hotels in the area.

Swoop tells CBC in a statement Thursday it does not arrange back-up flight crews in every location it flies to “due to the unlikelihood of a flight attendant becoming ill or injured during a flight.”

“Travellers were automatically rebooked on the next available Swoop flight. However, we understand that travel arrangements are unique to travellers and, if the Swoop flight was not satisfactory, we are following our Flight Interruption Policies which include booking travellers on an alternate flight with a carrier that Swoop has a commercial agreement with,” Swoop writes.

Airline passenger advocate Gabor Lukacs says new regulations do a better job of protecting Swoop than customers aboard its botched flight, but he thinks passengers still have a chance to sue for damages. (Robert Short/CBC)

Customers say they paid hundreds of dollars for food, transportation, hotels and flights they re-booked on their own.

Shannon Dickinson, 35, a law clerk in Hamilton, tells CBC News she hasn’t tallied the entire amount because she’s scared of the total cost but says she has forked out at least $500 — some of which includes what she says is a $15 fee to contact Swoop customer service.

“They can’t just dump you in the middle of somewhere and say, ‘you’re on your own,’ ” Dickinson says.

The airline says it is compensating expenses in accordance with its flight interruptions policies for Mexico.

Yesterday, Dickinson and other passengers taking a United Airlines flight back to Toronto from Houston started making a passenger list to band together and take the airline to court.

“I’m about the principle of it,” she says. “They really messed up and put a lot of people in danger.”

Current compensation rules have ‘loopholes’

Lukacs thinks Swoop will use the flight attendant’s injury to try and dodge lawsuits.

Under the current rules, if a flight is delayed, airlines have to provide updates every 30 minutes until confirming a new departure time and it must offer any new information as soon as possible.

Passengers on delayed flights can contact the airline and file a claim for compensation within one year of the trip.

The airline has 30 days to pay up or explain why it believes compensation isn’t warranted.

Those who don’t agree with the airline’s decision can take it up with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which Lukacs claims has “cozy relationships with airlines” and forces the passenger to prove delays or cancellations could have been prevented.

The rules also state Swoop, which claims to be a smaller airline, has to pay between $125 to $500 to passengers for applicable flights when flyers are delayed by three hours or more in reaching their final destination.

But unlike European Union regulations, airlines don’t have to compensate customers if uncontrollable factors such as bad weather or mechanical problems discovered outside of routine maintenance checks delays or cancels the trip.

“This is a point where the new rules are causing lots of problems,” Lukacs says.

“Swoop claims to be a small airline, which is dubious given its owned by WestJet … The set of new rules is a way of deceiving the public. It’s more protection for the airlines.”

Passengers have legal options

Lukacs says the passengers on Flight WO651 could be eligible for compensation if they use the Montreal Convention, part of the Carriage by Air Act.

And that compensation would cover out-of-pocket expenses and missed time from work.

“The passengers should group up and sue swoop under Montreal convention and new rules and see what [the courts] say,” Lukacs says.

“They may have to go to small claims, but Swoop will have to prove there was nothing they could have done to prevent it.”

Swoop has a flight scheduled to leave Cancún at 5:05 p.m. and land in Hamilton at 8:45 p.m. today. The flight has been delayed to leave at 5:40 p.m. and is expected to arrive in Hamilton at 9:20 p.m. today.

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Designer Virgil Abloh remembered at Fashion Awards

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Designers and celebrities paid tribute to Virgil Abloh at the Fashion Awards in London on Monday, where the late Louis Vuitton and Off-White creative force was honoured as a leader of change within the industry.

Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, who became fashion’s highest-profile Black designer, died on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/louis-vuitton-designer-virgil-abloh-dies-2021-11-28 following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.

The 41-year-old, who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been menswear artistic director at luxury label Louis Vuitton since March 2018.

“Genius, disruptor … (he) will be missed tremendously by all,” veteran designer Tommy Hilfiger said on the red carpet. “He inspired designers as well as the public.”

Designer and television personality Tan France called Abloh “incredible and a visionary … (who) has done the most beautiful work.”

Abloh, who founded label Off-White, was known for mixing streetwear with high-end suits and gowns while at Vuitton. His influences included graffiti art and hip hop.

“Everyone here is going to be talking about Virgil, everyone here has been impacted by his brilliance,” actor Gabrielle Union said.

At the awards, where Abloh’s photo was projected on stage, the designer was among 15 individuals and brands named leaders of change for their actions in the past year helping the environment, people and creativity.

Others on the list included Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, and Kim Jones, artistic director for Fendi womenswear and couture as well as menswear designer at Dior. Jones was also named designer of the year at the awards.

Michele also won the trailblazer award, while Hilfiger received the outstanding achievement award.

“I’m absolutely grateful, appreciative, humbled by it, but happy to be here and happy to still keep the business rolling,” Hilfiger, 70, said.

Demi Moore, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Dua Lipa were among the celebrity guests attending the event, a fundraiser for British Fashion Council charities.

 

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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Bank of Canada to work with Indigenous groups on reconciliation

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The Bank of Canada will work with Indigenous groups to understand the wounds caused by decades of discrimination and determine how reconciliation can create a more inclusive and prosperous economy for all, Governor Tiff Macklem said on Monday.

Macklem, opening a symposium on Indigenous economies, said Canadians could work to correct some of the consequences of those “ugly periods.”

Ottawa forcibly removed thousands of Indigenous children from their communities and put them in residential schools in an effort to strip them of their language and culture, a practice that continues to scar families and individuals.

“The Bank of Canada will be working with a broad spectrum of Indigenous groups to set out what reconciliation means for what we do,” Macklem said.

“Together, we’ll define what reconciliation means for the work of the Bank of Canada — toward a more inclusive and prosperous economy for everyone,” he said.

Canada‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the residential school system “cultural genocide” in 2015, as it set out 94 “calls to action” to try to restore Canada‘s relationship with its Indigenous people, including economic reconciliation.

“We can’t go back and change what’s happened. But we can try to correct some of the consequences,” said Macklem, adding that it is the central bank’s job to create conditions for opportunity for all Canadians.

“Taking concrete steps toward economic reconciliation is our responsibility too. And it’s incumbent upon us to take the time to do this well,” said Macklem.

 

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Canada’s Trans Mountain still ‘days away’ from restarting pipeline

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Canada‘s Trans Mountain said on Monday it was “still days away” from restarting the key oil pipeline at a reduced capacity as heavy rains continue to impede restoration efforts.

The pipeline, owned by the Canadian government, ships 300,000 barrels a day of crude and refined products from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. It was temporarily shut down as heavy rains and flooding caused widespread disruption in parts of British Columbia.

The operator said assessments of the impacts from the latest storm are being undertaken with a focus on the Coldwater and Coquihalla regions.

Work was interrupted at some sites on Sunday due to high water accumulation or lack of access, the company added.

The company on Friday had said it was working toward restarting the oil pipeline at a reduced capacity this week.

 

(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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