Air Canada says its communicator system has begun to stabilize after experiencing technical problems on Thursday morning, but travellers are still expected to face delays and cancellations before it is back fully up and running.
The Montreal-based airline advised travellers to check the status of their flights online amid delays caused by an IT issue for the second time in a week.
A total of 292 Air Canada flights, or 55 per cent of the airline's scheduled load, had been delayed Thursday as of just before 6 p.m. EDT, along with 38 cancellations, according to tracking service FlightAware.com.
Air Canada Rouge has also experienced 79 delays, or 52 per cent of its flights, as well as 22 cancellations.
Air Canada said the latest issue "was in the same systems" but unrelated to the problem it experienced last Thursday, when it briefly grounded its planes. The system is used to communicate with aircraft and monitor their performance.
"We have been in the process of upgrading this system using a third-party supplier’s technology. Air Canada will continue to work with the manufacturer to ensure stability in the system in the future," the airline said in an emailed statement.
"We apologize for the impact on our customers and appreciate their patience. We are working hard to get people on their way as soon as possible."
It said Thursday afternoon that aircraft "continue to move although still at a lower than normal rate" and it anticipates the effects to continue throughout the day.
"As a result, customers may experience delays and in some instances cancellations as we move through recovery," Air Canada said. "We have also put in place a flexible policy for those who wish to change their travel plans at no cost."
In April, the federal government unveiled a list of proposed reforms designed to close loopholes used by airlines to avoid paying fees under Ottawa's passenger rights rules.
That includes making passenger compensation the default in cases of flight disruption, with the onus on airlines to prove a flight delay or cancellation was due to reasons outside its control. Carriers would also face a greater burden of proof in situations where it is presumed that compensation is warranted.
The proposals were tabled as part of Bill C-47, the Budget Implementation Act, which awaits third reading in the House of Commons.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told reporters on Thursday that passengers affected by the latest Air Canada delays are already protected under existing laws because the issue was caused by factors within the airline's control.
He said his office had been in touch with Air Canada and was assured the company was aware of "the consequences of these delays."
"My understanding is that they're working on restoring (the system) as quickly as possible, but I also wanted to make sure that they understood their obligations toward their passengers and they make sure that they compensate those who are impacted," he said.
— With files from Émilie Bergeron in Ottawa
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
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Sammy Hudes, The Canadian Press