OTTAWA — An airline passenger rights advocate is suing the Canadian Transportation Agency and Air Transat over an incident last summer in which hundreds of people were left stranded in planes on the tarmac at the Ottawa airport for hours.
Gabor Lukacs has filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of Appeal over the agency's handling of the incident.
He says the agency found that Air Transat had violated numerous regulations, but levied only a nominal fine and then waived the penalty.
His suit seeks to have the penalty overturned and sent back to the CTA for reassessment and asks the court to rule that the agency does not have the authority to waive such penalties.
Last July, two Air Transat flights were diverted to Ottawa by bad weather and passengers were kept aboard the planes for five hours without adequate water or food and, in one case, without air conditioning, to the point where one traveller called 911 for help.
The agency and the airline have yet to respond to the suit.
"The CTA applied a slap on the wrist fine, far below the level established in its own enforcement manual," Lukacs, founder and co-ordinator of Air Passenger Rights, said in a statement.
In waiving the fine, the agency said the airline would get credit based on compensation settlements to passengers.
Lukacs said that is wrong.
"If the fines are reduced by amounts passengers receive in compensation settlements, then the fines are effectively zero and have no deterrent value."
Air Passenger Rights is a non-profit network of volunteers which seeks to educate people about their rights while travelling. It works through education, advocacy and litigation.