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Via Rail and Sunwing must answer for holiday mess: MP


The chair of the House of Commons transport committee on Tuesday called for Sunwing Airlines and Via Rail to publicly explain what caused the travel nightmare that plagued thousands of Canadians over the holidays.

Liberal member of Parliament Peter Schiefke said in a tweet that he plans to convene a committee meeting and call for representatives from both companies to appear as witnesses.

Schiefke said Canadians deserve answers for “unacceptable delays and cancellations” over the holiday season.

“It will be an important discussion,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra tweeted afterwards. “Canadians deserve answers.”

Hundreds of people were stranded in Mexico over the holidays after Sunwing cancelled their flights, leaving passengers scrambling and accusing the company of not communicating well.

Last week, the vacation destination airline announced it was cancelling all flights from Regina and Saskatoon until early February due to extenuating circumstances.

Via Rail had also been criticized, including by Alghabra, after passengers were stranded for hours as a winter storm pounded parts of Ontario and Quebec.

Many trains scheduled to run on Christmas Eve were cancelled, and the company said a CN Rail derailment was the culprit for more cancellations on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

A spokesperson for Via Rail said late Tuesday it would respond “favourably” to a committee request to explain what led to the situation last month.

Air travel was the source of many complaints throughout 2022 as the industry experienced the widespread return of both domestic and international travel after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Issues at airports, including lost baggage and lengthy delays, have been blamed in part on staffing shortages. Adding to the issues were long wait times at passport offices as Service Canada struggled to make up a backlog of applications that accumulated during the first two years of the pandemic.

Conservative MP Mark Strahl, a member of the transport committee, said Tuesday his party wants Alghabra to answer for what happened over the holidays.

“He broke his promise to fix the system and Canadians paid the price for it,” he said in a tweet.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 3,2023.

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