Canada needs a travel sector overhaul

Image by: Katharine Sung

Anyone who’s tried to take a vacation in the last few years knows travel isn’t what it used to be. Despite government bailouts during the pandemic, Canadian airlines have not recouped to the extent travelers may have hoped—or expected. 

This holiday season, hundreds of Canadians slept on airport floors as Sunwing and other airlines struggled to get planes off the ground for days following a blizzard. Some travelers documented their journeys on TikTok, with many opting to rent cars. One creator even walked miles through snow across the Canada-U.S. border to get home. 

The Canadian air travel sector, though private, lacks sufficient competition. Without a business incentive to improve, inefficiencies and poor customer service have become the norm. 

Air travel was unpleasant pre-COVID, but now some combination of delays, cancellations and lost luggage has become almost a sure thing when travelling. The new customer service standard seems to be pushing the limits of what consumers will tolerate. 

Restrictive customer service policies may help travel companies cut costs, but they can also destroy customer loyalty. Taking a more personal approach could make all the difference. 

Of course, airline employees are the ones who must absorb hostility from frustrated customers despite most issues being out of their control. 

Look no further than Air Canada and WestJet asking employees to work without pay in 2021 amid a post-lockdown travel boom as proof they need to be treated better. After receiving pandemic aid, Air Canada handed out multi-million-dollar executive bonuses, but still asked its staff to work for free rather than fund additional wages. 

It seems strange airlines that have operated in snowy Canada for decades aren’t better equipped to handle mass cancellations due to storms. No one expects travel companies to control the weather, but expecting there to be a plan to be in place for when it inevitably impacts travel isn’t unreasonable as a consumer. 

Domestic travel shouldn’t be so difficult in a country where family members live and work thousands of kilometres apart. Canadians need lawmakers to protect the public interest when it comes to dealing with airlines.  

Delays and cancellations can add significantly to already high travel costs, and airlines consistently avoid compensating their customers.

Though companies are required to provide financial compensation for delays, cancellations, and misplaced luggage, this typically only applies to incidents within their control. However, customers have complained of vague or even dishonest justifications for disruptions, lack of accountability, and failure to properly fulfill compensation claims. 

The Canadian government has begun to investigate the recent holiday travel chaos, which is a good start that could lead to better regulation down the road. In the meantime, invest in some travel insurance if you have a trip coming up. 

While bad weather isn’t under anyone’s control, companies must take responsibility at some point, and it should be clear when that is. We need detailed, explicit regulations, so consumers understand disruptions and what they’re entitled to when they occur.

Travelers aren’t asking for a miracle, just honesty and compensation when it’s due. A storm is only a good excuse until it passes—blaming days-long delays on weather won’t fly much longer.

—Journal Editorial Board


Air Canada, airlines, customer service, transport, Travel

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

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