Manitobans stranded in Ottawa for a week after Flair Airlines cancels flight

Fabrice Papuli, his wife and their three children were supposed to fly home to Winnipeg on Sunday after vacationing in Ottawa. 

Now, they say they’re stranded for a week after Flair Airlines cancelled their return flight to Winnipeg at the last minute and presented them with a choice: either accept a refund for half of what they paid for their tickets, or wait seven days until the next available flight.

Flair notified passengers about the flight cancellation by email at 1 a.m. Sunday, the day the flight was supposed to take off from Ottawa. It said there weren’t enough crew members to staff the flight and passengers had been automatically re-booked on the airline’s next flight to Winnipeg — but that’s not until this upcoming Sunday. 

Papuli arrived at the Ottawa airport at 10 a.m. to try to work something out, and told Radio-Canada after speaking with several people at Flair, he was given the choice to accept the partial reimbursement of $750 for his family of five or stay in Ottawa until the next flight to Winnipeg with their food and accommodations paid for.

About 20 Manitobans are in the same boat, Papuli said.

Couple can’t work from Ottawa

Papuli said he asked every car rental agency about driving his family back to Winnipeg, but they all told him they didn’t have enough vehicles in their fleets to accommodate them.

The only option the family has left is to buy new tickets to Winnipeg with another airline, but Papuli said it would cost too much. Another passenger on their flight paid $700 for one such ticket.

“My family, we are five. We checked. It would cost $4,000 to $5,000 to get us back to Winnipeg,” he said.

The couple aren’t equipped to do their work remotely from Ottawa, and are therefore facing the loss of some pay, he added.

Flair Airlines passengers at the Ottawa International Airport on Sunday. (Radio-Canada)

“My wife was crying yesterday … we spent almost 10 hours with kids in the airport, waiting for someone to give us answers, and it was impossible to [get them],” Papuli said.

“We are all stressed. We need to have a solution. I have to work, I have an exam to pass, I have things to do, and it’s the same for my wife.”

The owner of the Inspirations Voyage travel agency in Gatineau, Que., Marie-Pier Guilmette, said she wasn’t surprised by the situation, and her company prefers not to do business with Flair.

Jacob Charbonneau, who co-founded two websites that seek compensation for stranded airline passengers in Canada, told Radio-Canada they’ve been hearing more about Flair cancellations lately.

Flair Airlines confirmed Monday the flight was cancelled due to a shortage of crew members, and said it was trying to help all passengers reach their destination as soon as possible.