alaa sakr

Ontario family hit with ‘horrible’ 36-hour travel day after delayed and canceled flights from 3 different airlines

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It took 36 hours, three airlines and one layover to bring Alaa Sakr and his family back to Canada after their tropical vacation in Mexico.

“I have traveled a lot in Europe and used different airlines, by the way, budget airlines, but this has never happened to me,” Sakr told CTV News Toronto on Monday. “And then it happens to me now, three times in one day. That’s really not promising.”

Sakr had gone on vacation to Cancun, Mexico, with her husband, mother, and two-year-old daughter on vacation. They were scheduled to fly back to Ontario with Flair Airlines to the Waterloo Region International Airport on New Year’s Day.

Since their flight was scheduled to leave around noon, Sakr said they left their hotel at 7:30 a.m.

“We took the shuttle bus to the airport. [and while we were] waiting in line, i was checking my emails and i saw the cancellation email [from Flair]rebooking us on January 15,” he said.

In the email obtained by CTV News Toronto, Flair told passengers the flight was canceled due to “aircraft damage at the airport under the control of the airline” and that they rebooked passengers on the next flight. Available two weeks later.

“Subsequent Flair Airlines return flights were quite full, so the option provided to the family was the earliest the airline was able to accommodate them on their return,” Flair Airlines spokesman Mike Arnot said in a statement sent by email.

“Passengers are offered to complete their Flair itinerary on the next available flight or a refund if they choose not to accept the offered flight. No hotel accommodation is provided in this situation.”

Sakr said she tried to contact an agent for Flair online, but was unable to speak to anyone about what she and her family were going through. Instead, Sakr began looking for other flights that could take them home that day, since she and her husband needed to get back to work.


Sakr said he found a return trip with Air Transat, scheduled to leave at 12:15 p.m., leaving at the same terminal where they were stuck.

“We tried to book this one, but it was very expensive,” Sakr said. “It was $1,200 per person just for the return, and there are four of us.”

He then found another trip with Swoop Airlines to Toronto Pearson International Airport that would cost just under $1,400 for the four of them, scheduled to depart at 11:14 a.m., but from a different terminal.

“So, we took a taxi because the shuttle bus was going to be like 35 minutes late. We did not have time. it was around 10 in the morning […] so we were running,” Sakr said.

As soon as they arrived at the Swoop check-in counter, Sakr said they discovered that their flight had been canceled again.

“At first, they couldn’t find our names,” he said. “They asked to see the reservation number, they asked to see the email, and then they said, ‘Oh no, now I know what happened. The flight is cancelled.’”

Sakr said the flight was canceled at 10 am, 11 minutes before they received the flight confirmation email.

A Swoop spokesperson confirmed to CTV News Toronto that the flight was canceled at 10:19 a.m. on January 1.

“In this case, it appears that travelers booked the flights minutes before the cancellation and email notifications were issued,” Julia Brunet, Swoop’s communications adviser, said in an emailed statement.

Sakr said the next flight Swoop could book them on would leave the following week, and they advised him to apply for a refund. Brunet said Swoop issued a full refund to Sakr and his family, and “sincerely apologized” for the inconvenience.


At this point, Sakr says there were no more direct flights to Toronto Pearson or Waterloo airports. But there was an indirect flight with Air Canada that would take them to Toronto via Montreal, with a layover of about three hours between trips.

“The timing and everything was fine, so we booked this one,” he said, adding that he was supposed to leave around 2:40 p.m. from another terminal at the airport.

Sakr said he paid Air Canada $850 per person for one-way tickets.

When they arrived at the next terminal to check in for their flight, Sakr said she received an email saying her flight from Montreal to Toronto had been delayed to 7 a.m. the next day.

The flight out of Cancun was also delayed four hours, plus an additional hour of waiting on the runway. Sakr said they did not receive an explanation for the several-hour delay, which they later learned was due to staff shortages, until they were on board the flight.

“They offered nothing,” he said. “They just gave us a food voucher.”

An Air Canada spokesperson could not comment on Sakr’s specific case, but said the airline is complying with its obligations under the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR). Under APPR, airlines must provide clear communication about delays or cancellations, damaged or lost baggage, and when a flight is delayed on the tarmac by more than three hours.

“If this customer has questions, they should contact our Customer Relations department through our website. Please note that it may take up to 30 days to process cases,” the emailed statement read.

Fortunately, Sakr and his family had relatives to stay with when they landed in Montreal around midnight. Since they didn’t go to bed until around 1 am, they opted for a flight back to Toronto in the afternoon, which left on time.

But the long, arduous day of travel didn’t end at Toronto Pearson Airport. As they parked his car at the Waterloo airport, Sakr said they had to take an hour-long Uber ride to get there.

It was between 6 and 7 p.m. when they returned to their home in Hamilton.


Sakr said everyone felt “horrible” and “really tired” after a 36-hour travel day.

“My daughter had tantrums all [throughout] the day,” he said. “My mom, she’s a senior, she was very stressed, very tired, she didn’t get enough sleep, it was a horrible experience. It wasn’t easy for any of us.”

All the rescheduled flights have cost Sakr $3,500, though he said Flair promised to reimburse him $1,000 for his canceled flights. Still, Sakr said that $2,500 will be out of pocket for him.

“It is the first and the last time. Was it horrible, like rebooking us after 15 days? I can’t believe it,” Sakr said, about his experiences with Flair Airlines. “I will no longer fly with them.”

Arnot said the airline “strives” to fly its scheduled trips.

“This is a really unfortunate scenario that we want to avoid for our passengers, and we regret that,” Arnot said.

Sakr said he filed an online complaint with each airline.

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