If you've recently booked a ticket with Flair Airlines, you may have heard that the airline may be forced to cease its operations due to an issue with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).
Canadian ticket-holders have taken to social media in droves to share their frustration with the discount carrier, raising concerns that they'll be left without a refund or an alternative means of travel if the CTA issues a suspension over the airline's ownership.
On March 3, the CTA issued a preliminary determination that Flair Airlines may not meet the standard of Canadian control as per the Canada Transportation Act, SC 1996, c 10, which states that at least 51 per cent of a company's voting interests must be owned and controlled by Canadians. Additionally, no more than 25 per cent of the voting interests may be by any single non-Canadian entity or individual.
Flair must respond to the CTA deadline of May 3 (no later than 60 calendar days from the date of issuance) with evidence that it meets those percentages under the act. At the end of the review process, the agency will issue a final public determination.
While the CTA could halt Flair operations if it does not meet the conditions to qualify as "Canadian owned," President and CEO Stephen Jones told Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that customers should "absolutely be comfortable" in keeping the flights they've booked.
"I want to be really clear. We will not be grounded as a consequence of this review," he explained, adding that Flair has been working with the CTA to address the situation.
"This is an administrative process that we have a lot of influence over the outcome because we are going to listen to what the concerns are and we'll deal with them."
In regard to meeting the CTA's definition of "Canadian owned," Flair's U.S. partner, 777 Partners, owns 24.9 per cent of the company, which makes the ownership structure "absolutely compliant," said Jones.
Instead, certain governing documents, such as for the Board of Directors, needed to be more clear about Canadian representation, he added.
"Those committees need to be made up of a majority of Canadians. So it's more that kind of technical governance side of it than it is about ownership."
Flair Airlines and Canadian passenger rights
After Flair responded to concerns that it may be forced to halt its service, numerous customers asked why the airline hadn't responded to their issues with its service.
One woman commented: "[Seven] hours on hold. Instead of posting on [social], please use your staff more wisely," while another individual stated that they waited for four hours on the phone and no one helped them.
"Your management never got back to me about my lost/damaged luggage from last summer. Good to see your social media is quicker than the humans you employ to answer the telephone. Unfortunately, much work needs to be done," said @oscarduker.
Dr. Gábor Lukács is the founder and president of Air Passenger Rights — a group that gives airline customers information about their rights so they are capable of enforcing them against airlines. He told Vancouver Is Awesome in a previous phone interview that Canadians are frequently taken advantage of by airlines because they aren't aware of the rules.
In a recent Twitter post, the group noted that Flair Airlines should only be granted an 18-month temporary exemption from the ownership requirements if it company commits to offering better service to its passengers.
In early April, Canadian airlines asked a Federal Court of Appeal panel to quash rules that bolster compensation for passengers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.
Find out everything B.C. residents need to know about flight cancellations, refunds, and baggage claims.
V.I.A. has reached out to the CTA for additional comment and will update the story.
With files from The Canadian Press