Tuesday,  November 28, 2023  2:26 pm

“Frustrating!” WestJet CEO blasts air traffic control for flight delay

“Frustrating!” WestJet CEO blasts air traffic control for flight delay
WestJet's Alexis von Hoensbroech wasn't happy about his flight delay yesterday. The CEO is calling for shared accountability across the aviation sector. (Twitter/@AHoensbroech)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

You know Canada’s aviation sector is facing turbulence when WestJet’s very own CEO posts a grouchy selfie to social media in response to a flight delay.

Alexis von Hoensbroech, who began his role as chief executive officer of The WestJet Group last year, took to Twitter on Thursday (July 6) to complain about a WestJet flight he was on that was running behind by 2.5 hours.  

“Frustrating!” wrote the CEO, posting a picture of himself, with a grumpy face, from the middle seat of an aircraft. “Delayed by 2.5h on our own @WestJet flight to @yvrairport because @navcanada is understaffed. We would have been perfectly on time, now many guests will miss their connections. Shows again why we need a proper shared accountability system across the entire sector!”


In his tweet, von Hoensbroech even inserted an emoji blowing steam from its nose to further express his annoyance.

Nav Canada is the private not-for-profit air navigation provider used in Canada that manages a massive network of air traffic control towers and more.

Calls for shared accountability

von Hoensbroech’s tweet aligns with an argument that WestJet has been making for some time now – especially amid reforms to Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) – and that is that airlines should not be the only ones held responsible for delays and cancellations.

This, in fact, has been WestJet’s argument ever since the carrier, alongside Air Canada and Sunwing, was hauled into a parliamentary hearing in January to testify about the disruptions that left Canadian travellers scrambling over the winter holidays.

WestJet’s leadership has long been calling on Ottawa to address what it calls a “glaring gap” in consumer protection, and to implement a system that recognizes shared accountability in air travel.

von Hoensbroech has previously voiced his support for APPR legislation, which states how airlines must communicate and reimburse or compensate customers for delayed or cancelled flights or for damaged luggage.

But the CEO believes airlines aren’t the only ones to blame.

“There's airports, there's navigation, there's security, there's border control, there's ground handlers," von Hoensbroech told media last February, noting that those departments aren’t subject to the same rules and regulations as airlines.

“Whatever happens, it's always the airline, and the airline basically becomes the insurance company for the entire industry,” the CEO said at the time. “If you want an aviation sector that collectively produces a reliable product for our guests, then there has to be some shared accountability.''

von Hoensbroech’s recent seat tweet comes just as the busy summer travel season ramps up, and as air passengers flying out of major hubs in Canada face another round of flight delays.

Vancouver International Airport, for one, saw more than 100 delayed flights on Thursday, representing almost 15 per cent of its schedule.

“We continue to see delays to some arriving flights due to resource constraints within NAV Canada’s air navigation system,” the airport wrote on Twitter yesterday.

By Friday morning (July 7), YVR confirmed that the resource constraints within NAV Canada’s air navigation system had lifted, and that flights were returning to posted schedules.

“However, some delays may still occur as schedules normalize,” YVR wrote on social media.

Nav Canada told one news outlet yesterday that staff-related delays only represent a “small portion” of flight disruptions.  

“When it comes to air traffic delays, many factors come into play,” a rep told Daily Hive, citing infrastructure maintenance, runway construction and weather as the most frequent source of delays.

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