AT counters YOW's version of diverted flight incident

AT counters YOW's version of diverted flight incident

Passengers aboard an Air Transat flight diverted to Ottawa said they were required to wait more than six hours inside the hot aircraft as it sat on the tarmac, prompting some passengers to call 911

Montreal-bound Air Transat flight TSC157 from Brussels was diverted to Ottawa International Airport on Monday night (July 31) after severe thunderstorms were reported in both Montreal and Toronto. Maryanne Zehil, one of the 336 passengers aboard the flight, was quoted by The Canadian Press as stating several passengers were having difficulty breathing due to the temperature inside the aircraft; one passenger made a call to 911 prompting cabin crew to hand out bottles of water, the report stated.

According to Ottawa International Airport, the Air Transat flight was one of 20 aircraft diverted to YOW that day, beginning at approximately 3:45 pm. Of the 20 flights, 15 were from international destinations, and included nearly 5,000 passengers.

The Air Transat flight landed at 5:10 p.m. and departed at approximately 11 p.m., according to a statement from the airport, which went on to state that “the Airport Authority was in contact with the airline's local ground handler. We had a gate available and air stairs ready in the event that the airline decided to deplane. We also had buses on the tarmac ready to shuttle passengers to the terminal – buses the Authority purchased specifically for situations such as this. Neither the ground handling service nor the airline requested either of these during the event.

“At approximately 9 p.m.,” the airport statement continued, “the Authority and the City of Ottawa's 9-1-1 dispatch centre received several calls from passengers on the aircraft requesting medical assistance. As such, a full emergency response was activated including Airport Emergency Response Service, Ottawa Paramedic Services and Ottawa Police Service. One passenger was treated. Once in the aircraft, Airport Authority personnel realized that the aircraft had no operating air conditioning. We made arrangements for bottled water to be delivered to the aircraft and distributed by Authority personnel. We also offered to bring fans to the aircraft to help cool it. Our staff also suggested to the flight crew that all doors on the aircraft be open to permit fresh air to enter the aircraft.

However, Air Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana told PAX that “Ottawa Airport’s version of events is not consistent with ours. We will continue our investigation and come back with the facts as soon as possible.

“In any case, our passengers experienced genuine discomfort for which we are sincerely sorry.”

In response to the incident, Karen McCrimmon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, stated that, "I am aware of the weather-forced diversion and subsequent extensive delay of several flights, including Air Transat flight TSC157 at the Ottawa International Airport yesterday. I can imagine how difficult the situation must have been, especially after a long transatlantic flight.”

McCrimmon added that the recently-introduced Bill C-49 (Transportation Modernization Act) addresses such issues, establishing “clear standards for how passengers are to be treated in various situations, including cases of overbooking, delays, cancellations, long delays on the tarmac, and lost or damaged baggage.”

Bill C-49 was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport Infrastructure and Communities on June 19, 2017. The Committee members passed a motion to study the bill before Parliament resumes, starting on Sept. 11, 2017.