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Calgarians look ahead to busy travel season tied to spring break

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With Calgary Board of Education students set to kick off spring break once the final bell rings Friday afternoon, some Calgarians are eager to leave the country in pursuit of warmer weather with their families.

Airports usually see a swarm of travellers around this time of year, and this spring break is no different.

Spring break travel demand is up 75 per cent year over year, according to travel search engine Kayak, which based its figures on searches rather than ticket purchases.

The most-searched destinations were Paris, New York City, London, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Las Vegas.

Travellers are hopeful that airports and airlines will be operating smoother than this past holiday travel season when extreme winter weather across the country halted flights and caused chaos at Canadian airports.

The weather shouldn't be a significant issue this time, and airlines have had time to prepare.

Air Canada brought in more than 1,200 additional employees across the country as of the end of February compared to the same time last year.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority says it is at or above pre-pandemic staffing levels at Canada's four largest airports in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

The number of scheduled flights from Canada's two biggest airlines, WestJet and Air Canada, jumped by about 31 per cent combined, from about 36,000 to more than 47,000 this month.

"IT NEEDS TO BE FIXED"

Gabor Lukacs, president and founder of Air Passenger Rights,  says he's hopeful this spring break will see limited cancellations and delays.

"So far the airlines seems to have gotten lucky, largely in terms of weather," said Lukacs.

"We have not been hearing the same level of problems and that is partly due to weather conditions and partly because not all spring breaks are happening at the same time in all provinces. So, the load is somewhat more distributed and hopefully also because the airlines and the airports are now better equipped to deal with the situation. At least I want to believe that."

Meanwhile. the number of air travel complaints to the Canadian Transportation Agency ballooned over the past few months to more than 42,000.

Lukacs says the number of complaints points to a persistent issue within the current framework regulating airlines.

"Where we stand right now, it is more profitable for airlines to disobey the law and occasionally be caught and maybe be given a nominal fine.

"The Canadian Transportation Agency is part of the problem, not part of the solution. They have not been enforcing passenger rights properly. In fact, enforcement has been non-existent for many years, and that has encouraged airlines to engage in a behaviour that generates massive amount of complaints."

Lukacs adds that he believes the federal government should continue work to revamp the rules behind regulating airlines to ensure air passengers' rights are properly protected. 

"It is very difficult and evidence intensive to enforce in the vast majority of the cases. A lot of evidence may be needed to decide the fate of just a $400 refund and it is a serious problem," he said. 

"Everybody, by now, sees that the Liberal government's passenger prediction regime does not work. It needs to be fixed."

 

With files from The Canadian Press

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