Wednesday,  December 11, 2019  7:44 pm

Transat apologizes for nearly 24-hour Rome-Toronto delay

Transat apologizes for nearly 24-hour Rome-Toronto delay
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

This article has been updated as of 8:55 a.m. on Aug. 1.

 Air Transat has confirmed that flight TS309, which was scheduled to operate between Rome and Toronto with 336 passengers on board, departed at 1:46 p.m. local time on Tuesday, July 30, after a delay of 23 hours and 46 minutes, which included a six-hour wait on the tarmac in Rome.

READ MORE: First phase of Canada's air passenger protection regulations now in effect

In a series of images and video posted to Twitter, passengers stuck aboard the aircraft can be seen fanning themselves against the heat.

Other accounts claim the airline had a limited supply of water on board, and no air conditioning was turned on.

"This delay was initially caused by a mechanical problem on the aircraft, that was resolved," Debbie Cabana, marketing director, social media and public relations, Transat, told PAX. "When the follow-ups were carried out in relation to the mechanical problem, we were confident that we could leave Rome airport quickly, and thus avoid an excessively long waiting time for our customers inside the aircraft."

But, things didn't turn out as expected.

Passengers request to deplane

According to Cabana, some passengers expressed their desire to leave the aircraft, so Air Transat granted their requests and began the procedures promptly. 

The deployment of logistics to carry out this disembarkation took some time and thus caused an additional delay for the passengers who were still on board, as the airline had to request buses to transport passengers to the terminal, as well as allocate agents inside the airport to greet passengers and retrieve luggage.

"Since our flight crew is subject to government regulations regarding crew fatigue management, the combined time delays no longer allowed our crew to fly. We had to take the decision to postpone the departure of our flight to the next morning," Cabana explained.

From the time the doors were closed, until the moment Transat says its crew began the procedures to let the passengers off the airplane, approximately three hours elapsed. However, from the time the first passenger got into the plane to the time they all deplaned, six hours did, indeed pass, Cabana confirms.

The passengers were transported to hotels for the night, where both dinner and breakfast were provided. Passengers who took yesterday’s flight will receive compensation of 600 euros ($900 CAD).

Under Transport Canada's new air passenger protection laws, which came into effect July 15, 2019, airlines must ensure that passengers receive standards of treatment during all tarmac delays and allow them to leave the airplane, when it's safe to do so, if a tarmac delay lasts for over three hours and there's no prospect of an imminent take-off.

However, those new rules were not the reason for Air Transat's financial gesture.

"The 600 EUR compensation was mandated by the European Union's gold standard rules," said air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs. "Under Canadian rules, the passengers would have seen zero dollars because it was a "maintenance" issue. The Canadian 'new rules' did not help these passengers at all. This case is the first proof that the "new rules" do not work, which is exactly as we have been cautioning for more than two years."

Air Transat says that the compensation was provided in compliance with the Flight Compensation Regulation  261/2004.

"We would like to express our regret for the inconvenience this delay may have caused to our passengers, but we confirm that we have done our best to ensure their comfort by providing snacks and water, activating the air conditioning system as soon as possible and communicating regularly," Cabana stated.

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