Canceled Air Canada flights nearly left the Sudbury couple stranded in Toronto

Nicole Leclerc and her husband would have been stranded at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport had it not been for the help of the extended family that brought them home to Sudbury.

On June 29, Air Canada announced that it would cancel dozens of daily flights over the summer due to a number of challenges, including staff shortages.

These cancellations affected Locklear and her husband Andy, who had just returned to Canada from a European vacation to visit family.

Twice during the flight, Air Canada canceled return flights. The couple flew to Toronto’s Pearson Airport on July 1, spending a night in a hotel before boarding a return flight the next morning.

But a last minute cancellation email came in as they were headed to the airport – with no immediate solution from Air Canada.

“We’ve been sitting there (at the airport) this whole time and I haven’t received any email from them,” Leclerc said.

She said Air Canada told them they canceled the flights because they didn’t have enough crew to operate the plane.

Bags everywhere. People scattered everywhere, on the floor, sitting, sleeping.– Nicole Leclerc

Leclerc said she and her husband are far from the only people stranded at the airport.

“People were lying around, like taking entire seating areas because I think they’ve been there all night,” she said.

“Bags everywhere. People scattered everywhere, on the floor, sitting, sleeping.”

Travelers walk through Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario on June 14, 2022. (Laura Pedersen/CBC)

Leclair posted about the ordeal on Facebook and her cousin from Orangeville, Ontario, about 60 kilometers from Pearson, saw the post and offered them a ride.

He led them to Parry Sound, Ont., about 163 kilometers south of Sudbury, and her daughter met them there and led them the rest of the way.

Leclair said she has yet to hear back from Air Canada since her second flight was canceled.

“I just want my money back from Toronto to Sudbury,” she said.

Fewer last minute cancellations

Jean-Matthews Chenier, director of marketing at Greater Sudbury Airport, said he hopes that by reducing the number of domestic flights early, Air Canada will not have the same number of last-minute cancellations affecting travelers as Leclerc.

“It is difficult to rebuild travelers’ confidence in the travel industry if flights are canceled,” he said.

“Right now, you know, Sudbury isn’t going back to the full track of things until there’s a reliable flight schedule and that business person can count on making that connection and just going beyond Toronto, for example.”

Delays and cancellations at Pearson International in Toronto are extending to Northeastern Ontario airports, just as travelers start returning two years into the pandemic. (Eric White/CBC)

Terry Bos, president and CEO of Sault Ste Marie Airport Development Corporation, said he expects Air Canada to have a “significant reduction” in last-minute cancellations, given there are fewer flights overall.

He said the canceled daily flights did not affect Sault Ste. Marie Airport, which will continue to operate three daily flights from Toronto throughout the summer.

However, Timmins Victor M. Power will be retracting two daily Air Canada flights from Toronto, out of the usual three.

“The night flight has now been suspended, and I’m told it will probably be at the beginning of September,” said Dave Damment, airport manager.

“Thus only [Air Canada is] Not having bookings for people’s flights and then frustrating them with huge amounts of their flight cancellation date.”

Diament said an airline like Air Canada is more likely to cancel domestic flights with 70 passengers to a regional airport than larger international flights.

North Bay is down to one daily Air Canada flight from Toronto, in the summer, said Brian Avery, airport manager for North Bay Jack Garland Airport Corporation.

Avery said in an email to CBC News that canceled flights are difficult for the industry, at a time when more people are traveling due to fewer COVID-19 restrictions.

“Unfortunately, the problems have negatively affected some people’s perception of travel in general; they have continued to affect the recovery of the entire aviation industry and associated industries such as tourism,” Avery wrote.

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