Amidst raging wildfires in the Northwest Territories, major Canadian airlines are being accused of insufficiently assisting passengers seeking to evacuate or modify their flights.
According to CBC news, Yellowknife announced an emergency situation at the beginning of the week and on Wednesday night, residents were instructed to leave the city due to approaching wildfires.
Further reports also show that Air Canada is allowing passengers to change flight itineraries to Yellowknife without incurring any fees if their original departure was scheduled for this month.
However, many individuals have criticized the airline on social media, expressing their dissatisfaction with the steep increase in fares, which have reached as high as $4,665 for flights leaving the city.
According to Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email to CBC, the allegations made are baseless, as the airline has implemented a maximum fare limit on direct flights departing from Yellowknife. As an example, he mentioned a Yellowknife to Edmonton flight priced at $272, without providing the specific date for the mentioned flight.
Regarding flights priced at over $1,000 departing from Yellowknife, Fitzpatrick wrote that they are, “are based on complex itineraries involving multiple flights, and sometimes multiple carriers, rather than direct flights out.”
He also stated that Air Canada has added two extra flights on Thursday, doubling its regular operations in Yellowknife.
“We are working with authorities to determine how long we can continue to operate given the limitations being imposed on flying due to the fires,” Fitzpatrick said.
He added that because of the evacuation order, Air Canada has cancelled flights out of Yellowknife on Saturday.
Passengers have criticized WestJet for not accommodating flight changes to Yellowknife.
On Wednesday, Jackie Steenbergen from Lethbridge, Alta., informed CBC News that WestJet billed her a fee of $420 to reschedule a flight on Aug. 26 for herself and her husband to Yellowknife in order to visit their daughter. Following a public complaint about the charge on social media, she stated that WestJet reduced the fee to $210.
Steenbergen expressed her belief that she should not be required to pay any fee for changing her flight to an area affected by wildfires.
“I’m a little disheartened, which is why I went to social media,” she said. “Northwest Territories is on fire. My daughter is not even there, she’s evacuated.”
WestJet informed CBC News that they are waiving change fees for passengers traveling to Yellowknife until Aug. 30 in compliance with the evacuation order. The airline also altered fares to prevent price hikes.
Steenbergen said she received a refund of $210 for her change fee on Thursday night.
CBC News reported that Transport Canada has contacted several airlines to assist with the evacuation efforts in Yellowknife.
Canadian North airline has initiated evacuation flights since Monday and is currently allowing pets in the cabin, provided they are on a leash.
“Most people are fleeing,” said Shelly De Caria, Canadian North’s VP of marketing.
“We are here to help and we will not leave until everyone is safely out of the city.”