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WestJet CEO pushes for shared air travel accountability during flight delay

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech argued this week that air traffic controllers were to blame for a 2.5-hour flight delay on his own airline.

Von Hoensbroech tweeted on Thursday that his flight to Vancouver had been delayed due to staffing issues at NAV Canada, the corporation behind Canada’s air traffic controllers.

“Frustrating!” von Hoensbroech wrote in the tweet. “We would have been perfectly on time, now many guests will miss their connections. Shows again why we need a proper shared accountability system across the entire sector!”

In a statement to BNN Bloomberg, a spokesperson for NAV Canada said aircraft capacity issues in Vancouver combined with “unplanned absences” forced the delays.

“NAV CANADA takes any staffing-related (Ground Delay Programs) very seriously, and we work actively to mitigate them through forecasting, optimizing scheduling and bringing in additional resources,” the statement reads in part. “Our dedicated air traffic controllers are working actively to keep aircraft moving safely and efficiently.”

NAV Canada also stated that it has 400 employees in training, while another 600 will enter training in the next two years.

“It is a company-wide priority to make every effort to support the anticipated increased traffic during busy travel seasons and we are committed to working with our employees and unions on this front,” the statement reads. “Our training activities are already yielding results, with more than 100 air traffic services employees receiving qualification since the beginning of our current fiscal year.”

Von Hoensbroech has argued that industry partners need to share some of the blame for flight disruptions, including air traffic controllers, security personnel and border control officers.

“Whatever happens, it’s always the airline, and the airline basically becomes the insurance company for the entire industry,” he told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce back in April.

“If you want an aviation sector that collectively produces a reliable product for our guests, then there has to be some shared accountability.”

Under current Air Passenger Protection regulations, travellers can apply directly to the airline for compensation for a flight delayed more than three hours that’s not related to safety issues.

With files from The Canadian Press

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