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Was your travel disrupted? Here’s what you’re owed — and what you won’t get

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The weather may be clearing, but many travellers are still unable to reach their destination or return home after last week’s winter storm. Many others are still waiting for answers and refunds after their travel plans went awry.

Hundreds of Canadians have spent days stuck in Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic after Sunwing repeatedly cancelled their flights home. Stranded flyers say they have received little information or support from the airline.

WestJet and Air Canada passengers also reported issues reaching their destinations.

Meanwhile, some rail passengers are still waiting to reach their destinations after Via Rail trains were halted between Windsor and Quebec City overnight Friday into Saturday, leaving travellers stuck on board for more than 20 hours. Via Rail resumed service between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on Tuesday but warned of significant delays due to congestion along the routes.

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While some travellers wait to find out when they might reach their destinations, others are wondering when they might receive refunds and compensation — if, that is, they’re entitled to anything at all.

A group of people sit on chairs staring at their cellphones.
The long wait began for travellers at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Friday. Some passengers have yet to reach their destinations, while others are stranded and can’t get home. (Andrej Ivanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Air travel rights

There are clear rules for Canadian airlines in case of delays and cancellations, but exactly what passengers are entitled to depends on the cause of the disruption. For instance, if passengers are grounded due to reasons within the airline’s control — such as crew shortages — they are entitled to food and drink, accommodation if they have to wait overnight for a new flight, and compensation if their flight delay was more than three hours.

But if the situation is outside of the airline’s control, such as bad weather, passengers don’t get those same standards of care or compensation.

Large airlines are also supposed to rebook passengers on a new flight to their destination within 48 hours of their original departure time, even if that means booking them a ticket on a competitor’s flight. But small airlines, such as Sunwing, are required to only rebook passengers on their next available flight, or on another airline they have a partnership with.

In a statement, Sunwing said it was working to organize “recovery” flights, and said customers could book their own flights home on a different airline and then submit a refund request for their unused Sunwing flight.

John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Ottawa, said it appeared that airlines were not being “forthcoming” with passengers about their right to be rebooked on another carrier.

A lot of people sit or stand around luggage in an airport. Some people are sitting on the floor looking at their cellphones.
Sunwing passengers wait at Cancun International Airport in Mexico on Tuesday. The airline says it is arranging ‘recovery’ flights for stranded travellers, but it would not say where or when those flights would take place. (Elizabeth Ruiz/AFP/Getty Images)

“Insist on trying to get a flight on a different airline…. Passengers should know they have that right if they can’t be rebooked within two days,” Lawford said.

He recommends that any delayed or stranded passengers keep all of their receipts and file a claim for compensation with their airline.

Fewer rights for rail passengers

There are no equivalent passenger rights protecting rail travellers — meaning Via Rail customers whose trips were disrupted in recent days are entitled only to whatever the company wants to give them.

In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday, Via Rail said passengers whose trains were cancelled between Dec. 24 and 26 would automatically receive a full refund. Passengers could cancel Dec. 27 trips online and obtain a refund.

Customers would need to contact Via Rail to request a refund for a connecting leg of their journey or a return trip.

A person in a coat and mask speaks with the driver of a dark blue taxi outside a Via Rail station on a snowy day.
Ester Ahn gets in a cab after her train was cancelled due to a Via Rail service stoppage around Cobourg, Ont., on Saturday. (Nick Lachance/Reuters)

It was unclear whether passengers who spent lengthy periods trapped on stopped trains last week would receive any compensation.

Via Rail said all trains on its Toronto to Ottawa and Toronto to Montreal routes would be running on the regular schedule beginning on Wednesday, but delays were possible.

Better accountability?

In the United States, Southwest Airlines is facing extra scrutiny after cancelling thousands of flights and leaving travellers stranded at airports across the country in recent days.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation both plan to look into the airline’s actions — including why it cancelled even more flights after the worst of the bad weather had passed.

A traveller lies on the floor in the line for a Southwest counter.
Southwest Airlines cancelled more than 12,000 flights around the holiday weekend, prompting investigations by the U.S. Department of Transportation and a Senate committee. Here, travellers wait at Baltimore/Washington International Airport on Tuesday. (Michael A. McCoy/Reuters)

Lawford suggested that Canadian travellers could put pressure on lawmakers to improve air passenger rights by contacting their local MP to share their travel experience.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said his office and Transport Canada were “in regular contact with airlines and airports to ensure they have what they need to keep passengers moving safely.”

Regarding Via Rail’s disruptions, the spokesperson said the government would “hold all those involved accountable,” without providing further details.

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FTX founder Bankman-Fried objects to tighter bail, says prosecutors 'sandbagged' him – Reuters

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NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Lawyers for Sam Bankman-Fried on Saturday urged a U.S. judge not to ban the indicted FTX cryptocurrency executive from communicating with former colleagues as part of his bail, saying prosecutors “sandbagged” the process to put their client in the “worst possible light.”

The lawyers were responding to a Friday night request by federal prosecutors that Bankman-Fried not be allowed to talk with most employees of FTX or his Alameda Research hedge fund without lawyers present, or use the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Slack and potentially delete messages automatically.

Bankman-Fried, 30, has been free on $250 million bond since pleading not guilty to charges of fraud in the looting of billions of dollars from the now-bankrupt FTX.

Prosecutors said their request was in response to Bankman-Fried’s recent effort to contact a potential witness against him, the general counsel of an FTX affiliate, and was needed to prevent witness tampering and other obstruction of justice.

But in a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers said prosecutors sprung the “overbroad” bail conditions without revealing that both sides had been discussing bail over the last week.

“Rather than wait for any response from the defense, the government sandbagged the process, filing this letter at 6:00 p.m. on Friday evening,” Bankman-Fried’s lawyers wrote. “The government apparently believes that a one-sided presentation – spun to put our client in the worst possible light – is the best way to get the outcome it seeks.”

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers also said their client’s efforts to contact the general counsel and John Ray, installed as FTX’s chief executive during the bankruptcy, were attempts to offer “assistance” and not to interfere.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in Manhattan declined to comment.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers proposed that their client have access to some colleagues, including his therapist, but not be allowed to talk with Caroline Ellison and Zixiao “Gary” Wang, who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

They said a Signal ban isn’t necessary because Bankman-Fried is not using the auto-delete feature, and concern he might is “unfounded.”

The lawyers also asked to remove a bail condition preventing Bankman-Fried from accessing FTX, Alameda or cryptocurrency assets, saying there was “no evidence” he was responsible for earlier alleged unauthorized transactions.

In an order on Saturday, Kaplan gave prosecutors until Monday to address Bankman-Fried’s concerns.

“The court expects all counsel to abstain from pejorative characterizations of the actions and motives of their adversaries,” the judge added.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Gold declines in light of the report that revealed inflation continues to decline – Kitco NEWS

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As of 6:00 PM EST, the February contract of gold futures has fallen for the second time in the last seven trading days. Currently, gold futures are fixed at $1927.60, a decline of $2.40 or 0.12%. Gold traded to a high of $1935.40, and a low of $1916.50.

The key takeaway from today’s PCE inflation index report was that the core PCA index declined in December by 0.3%. The preferred inflation index used by the Federal Reserve was at 4.7% year-over-year in November and declined to 4.4% year-over-year last month.

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Both reports will influence decisions made by the Fed at next week’s FOMC meeting.

They will be critical components used by the Federal Reserve next week and will most likely strengthen the conviction of hawkish Fed officials to maintain their extremely aggressive monetary policy. Currently, the Federal Reserve’s forward guidance is composed of additional rate hikes and maintaining elevated rates for a longer time.

The most likely outcome is that the Fed will raise the rate by ¼% at the next two meetings. The Federal Reserve has stated they continue to work to reach its inflation target of 2%. A vast majority of market participants continue to believe that the Fed will backpedal on its commitment to keep rates elevated through 2023.

I will be speaking at the VRIC 2023 (Sunday, January 29-30) at the Vancouver Convention Center. Both Kitco News and I wish to welcome you if you’re available.

For those who would like more information simply use this link.

Wishing you as always good trading,

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Afraid to check a bag? Canada's missing baggage woes explained – CBC News

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Deborah Cleary was exasperated.

When she landed in Montreal on Dec. 19, following a trip to Italy, she discovered her suitcase was missing. More than a month later, Air Canada still hadn’t found her bag. 

“I’ve spent so much time thinking about it, worrying about it, checking online, calling Air Canada,” said Cleary from her home in Plattsburg, N.Y., on Tuesday. “I’m just sort of desperate to get my bag back.”

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The post-pandemic return to travel has been turbulent, plagued by mass flight disruptions and missing baggage piling up at airports. That has led to calls for airlines to improve their baggage delivery systems.

“It’s broken, so I think they need to fix that,” said Cleary, who visited the Montreal airport two weeks ago to search for her bag amidst a sea of unclaimed luggage. She didn’t find it.

However, following a CBC News inquiry to Air Canada, Cleary learned on Friday that her suitcase is being shipped to her home. 

“I’m very, very happy,” she said. “I had almost resigned myself, I was never going to see it again.”

Deborah Cleary and Dan Albert of Plattsburgh, NY pose for photo during their vacation to Italy.
Deborah Cleary and Dan Albert of Plattsburgh, N.Y., are still waiting to be reunited with their missing baggage that disappeared on their return flight from Milan to Montreal. (submitted by Deborah Cleary)

Canada’s first round of missing baggage chaos erupted in the summer, largely sparked by staffing shortages as airports and airlines scrambled to ramp up operations. 

There were high hopes the holiday travel season would go more smoothly — until severe winter storms hit much of Canada, causing hundreds of delayed and cancelled flights, plus a backlog of lost luggage.

“In the airline industry, a delay of greater than 15 minutes generally results in missed connections,” said former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee. “Delays equal missing bags.”

Former Air Canada executive, Duncan Dee.
Former Air Canada executive Duncan Dee says airports need more infastrucutre funding to keep operations running smoothly during bad weather. (CBC)

Dee said airlines need to do a better job keeping track of luggage, and the federal government also needs to invest more in airports.

In late December, cold weather caused a baggage belt to freeze at Toronto’s international airport; a fierce snow storm caused widespread flight delays and cancellations at Vancouver’s international airport.

“There’s obviously a need for better infrastructure, better resources for airports … to make them more resilient to these weather events,” said Dee.

What about the airlines?

When asked this week about recent travel chaos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said airports will get the tools they need, but did not elaborate. 

On the baggage issue, he pointed the finger at airlines. 

“I find it extremely frustrating when I hear stories of people not having their luggage for days on end,” he said during an event in Hamilton. “Airlines should be doing more.”

His comments follow several recent media reports about air passengers’ struggles to find their missing luggage

They include the saga of Nakita Rees and Tom Wilson of Cambridge, Ont., who battled with Air Canada for more than four months to retrieve Wilson’s missing suitcase. 

WATCH |Ontario couple told their luggage was lost — but it wasn’t: 

Air Canada said this couple’s luggage was lost. AirTags showed otherwise

5 days ago

Duration 2:18

A couple says Air Canada donated their luggage to charity just a month after it got lost en route to Toronto’s Pearson Airport. They tracked it to a storage locker.

The bag vanished during their flight home from Greece in September. Because the couple had put an air tag tracker inside the suitcase, they were able to track its journey to a storage facility in nearby Etobicoke, Ont. 

Even though Rees shared with Air Canada the whereabouts of the bag, the airline deemed it lost. 

“The most frustrating thing about it was we had no way of getting it, even though we knew the location and we told the airline so many times,” said Rees. “Because the air tags are newer, I just don’t think airlines know how to even use that information.”

The couple finally got the suitcase back this week — after their story was picked up by the media.

Airlines respond

Other passengers have also complained about similar experiences when tracking their lost luggage with air tags. 

Former Air Canada executive Dee said airlines typically track luggage by scanning their baggage tags and that their systems currently can’t accommodate air tracking technology.

“That’s something where airline processes have not caught up to the technology that’s available,” he said. “No airline in the world has the ability right now to accept information from travellers.”

Alghabra suggested airlines need to change with the times. 

“We hear about how Amazon is able to identify where their items [are at] every moment,” he said. “It’s frustrating that airlines still have not modernized their luggage handling system.”

Air Canada told CBC News it’s constantly exploring new technologies. The airline added that its baggage delivery rate has returned to normal, following the stormy holiday weather. 

Air Canada said that in Rees’ case, the baggage tag had fallen off the suitcase. The airline didn’t say how it eventually located the couple’s bag, but did indicate that they get to keep the $2,300 in compensation they received for lost luggage. 

WestJet said it has launched a strategic review to fine-tune its baggage systems. “[We] are committed to working together with our third-party service partners … to ensure we improve in this area,” said spokesperson Madison Kruger in an email. 

Baggage compensation

Travellers can claim up to approximately $2,350 for luggage that is lost or delayed on an international flight. For delayed baggage on domestic flights, the airlines design their own rules. 

Alghabra’s office told CBC News this week the government is exploring ways to strengthen rights for air passengers, including for delayed and lost baggage.

As for passenger Cleary, she had applied for compensation for a lost bag, but said getting it back is a better outcome. 

“I would much prefer to have my bag back than any money from Air Canada.”

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