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Air Canada passengers delayed two days after head count mishap in Costa Rica

Last Updated Jan 10, 2017 at 7:55 am EDT

For nearly 300 people, a flight from Costa Rica to Toronto turned into a two-day odyssey after a head count issue left them stuck on the tarmac for hours.

Milton lawyer, Pam Machado and her partner were two of the 273 people who found themselves stuck for 10 hours on the tarmac at San Jose Costa Rica after a passenger head count came up one short.

Machado said during that time they were only offered snacks.

Air Canada issued the following statement about the incident:

“The flight was a Boeing 767 with 273 passengers, so this all took some time. Unfortunately, due to the length of the delay our crew ran over their legal duty day, meaning it could not operate and the flight was finally cancelled.”

Machado said during the ordeal, Air Canada staff were of little help and the only person who tried to explain the situation was the captain who patiently answered people’s questions after the flight was cancelled.

Air Canada then put the passengers up in a hotel for the night and provided food vouchers.

However, Machado says when they arrived back at the airport on Monday, check-in was even more atrocious than the day before, claiming they were ‘being herded like cats.’

To make matters worse, the makeup flight took off about two and a half hours later than scheduled.

Machado said the delay cost her and her partner dearly. She said she missed a day at the office and her partner missed the first day of a three month police training program.

Air Canada said they would be refunding the passengers for the return portion of the trip but a passenger rights expert says the airline did not do enough.

According to Dr. Gabor Lukacs, the efforts made by the airline were a start but that Air Canada is still responsible for things like “lost wages and parking their car an extra day.”

Dr. Lukacs, who runs the Facebook group Air Passenger Rights, said Machado and other passengers should write a business-like letter to Air Canada outlining the flight, delay time and expenses and losses incurred.

“Don’t dwell on how bad it was, just be factual,” he explained.

He said if the airline rejects the letter, the next option is small claims court – adding that that airlines can be on the hook for up to $8,000 in such expenses.

In the past there have been attempts to create Flight Rights for passengers but Dr. Lukacs said so far the attempts have been defeated – although the Liberals are looking at a new version.

Dr. Lukacs said an air passenger rights initiative needs to contain clear rules and stiff penalties for delays, cancellations and bumping, a public source for listing reasons for delays and cancellations and ways for the Canadian Transportation Agency to enforce new rules.

But for Machado, the damage has already been done.

“I will definitely not fly Air Canada again,” she stated bluntly.