Air passenger rights advocate Dr. Gábor Lukács has filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) and Air Transat.
This pertains to incidents in July 2017 when hundreds of passengers were left stranded on the tarmac for five hours, with little food, water and even air conditioning.
The CTA uncovered that Air Transat had committed a total of 590 violations of Air Transportation Regulations, but curiously, slapped on just a minimal fine. To make the matter even more head scratching, the CTA later on waived the fine completely.
The lawsuit is seeking to have the punishment overturned and sent back to the CTA for another round of evaluation. Lukács is also asking the Federal Court of Appeal to hand down an order that indicates CTA does not have the power to waive the penalties taxed for violations.
“The CTA applied a slap on the wrist fine, far below the level established in its own enforcement manual,” said Dr. Lukács, who is the founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights.
“The CTA also inappropriately waived the entire fine. If the fines are reduced by amounts passengers receive in compensation settlements, then the fines are effectively zero and have no deterrent value,” he added.
The lawsuit stems from an incident that happened in July 2017. Two Air Transat flights were diverted to Ottawa airport due to inclement weather. Although Air Transat’s own tariff indicates passengers hold the right to get off a grounded flight after 90 minutes, passengers were still kept onboard for five hours without sufficient water or food.
In one case, the passengers had to make do with no air conditioning. At least one passenger called 911, and emergency crews eventually went to the scene to provide immediate aid.
Despite the harrowing ordeal on top of the violations, Air Transat will sidestep any fines as the CTA ruled that the airline would get “credit” based on compensation settlements to passengers.
Dr. Lukács argues in the lawsuit that the CTA has no power to do so, and asks the court to order the CTA to impose fines aside from any compensation offered to or won by passengers.