Passengers planning to take Swoop flights from airports across Canada and Florida have been left scrambling after the low-cost airline delayed or cancelled nearly two dozen trips because of maintenance issues.
The WestJet Airlines subsidiary said 11 of its flights were cancelled on July 7 and 8, including trips from Hamilton, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
The cancellations, which began on July 5, will continue for next two days. July 9 trips from Hamilton, Halifax and London, Ont. and July 10 trips from Hamilton, Winnipeg and Edmonton have also been grounded.
The airline blamed unscheduled maintenance on one of its aircraft.
"Safety is our number one priority and we sincerely apologize to our travellers for the interruption in their plans," said Swoop spokesperson Karen McIsaac in an email to CBC News.
"We know how disruptive it is when travel doesn't go as planned, and we're sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment this has caused."
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'You can't plan with them'
Hanna Romanowski's husband, Radek, was scheduled to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Hamilton Monday, but an email let him know that trip was cancelled and he'd been given a seat on the next available flight out — July 15 — a full week later.
That's a delay that's simply unacceptable, said Romanowski. Her husband has important meetings arranged for Tuesday, so rather than wait seven days to get home he dug into his air miles and will be hopping on an Air Canada plane Monday evening.
"You can't plan with them," she said of Swoop.
"Taking the risk that you can't get out for a week? I think I'd rather pay extra and make sure I make it."
Click here for details on Swoop flight disruptions
Alan Lutyk also suffered the delays firsthand.
The Hamilton man was scheduled to fly to Edmonton at 8 p.m. Friday, but repeated delays meant the plane didn't take off until 2 a.m. Saturday.
He was travelling to Alberta to visit the town of Beauvallon, where his parents grew up, and to mark its 100th anniversary.
After hours of delay he arrived in Alberta and managed to make the celebration, but his travel headaches weren't over yet.
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The first-time Swoop traveller headed back to the Edmonton airport an hour before his 10:45 a.m. flight home. He ended up "waiting around and waiting around" until an announcement over the loudspeaker saying the plane wouldn't be leaving until 10 p.m.
Lutyk said he was among a group of several disgruntled passengers who asked the staff working at the Swoop desk to speak with their manager. Instead, he says, they "panicked" and fetched an RCMP officer who told the angry travellers to grab their luggage and a $30 meal voucher.
Travellers cite lack of customer support
Had he known there was going to be such a significant delay, Lutyk says, he would have stayed an extra day instead of rushing to the airport just to spend the day sitting around.
Compared to some of his fellow passengers, who missed out on holidays or connecting flights, Lutyk saus he didn't suffer too much. But, he says, his exasperation and that of the other delayed travellers was made worse by a lack of customer support.
It would be great if they were reliable and had some customer support, but no, for anybody who asks I'd say, 'Don't fly with them.'- Hanna Romanowski
Calls to Swoop's headquarters over the weekend were answered by an automated message saying the office was closed until Monday.
"You can't call in," he explained. "The people at the desk don't know what to tell you so it was quite frustrating for everybody."
He eventually did get back to Hamilton, around 5 a.m. Monday, and has spent much of the morning trying to get through to ask about a refund but the lines are still swamped and he hasn't managed to speak with anyone.
Romanowski said the most recent cancellation isn't the first time the couple has had trouble with the airline. She says a flight she was supposed to take from Fort Lauderdale was also cancelled in May, leaving her scrambling for a way home.
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Despite an email to the airline and several hours on the phone, waiting for someone to pick up, she says she never heard back about a refund. She's not optimistic the couple will see any money back from her husband's flight either.
In its statement McIsaac said Swoop travellers affected by the delays and cancellations will be provided with "accommodation, meal and transportation as needed and those that wished to cancel can do so for a full refund."
Swoop policy also requires that the airline reroute passengers on other airlines if it cannot rebook them on its own flights "within a reasonable amount of time."
Still, Romanowski said she and her husband won't risk using the airline again.
"It would be great if they were reliable and had some customer support, but no, for anybody who asks I'd say, 'Don't fly with them.'"