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Canceled WestJet flight prompts bus return for Regina residents

What was supposed to be a quick one-hour flight from Calgary to Regina turned into an eight-hour bus ride Sunday night.

WestJet Flight No. WS298 was scheduled to depart from Calgary International Airport for Regina at 4:20 p.m. but was canceled due to what the company called unscheduled maintenance.

Instead of rescheduling another flight, the airline offered ground transportation that would depart at 4 p.m., leaving travelers frustrated.

The bus arrived at the Regina airport around 1:00 a.m.

In total, three buses were reportedly used to transport stranded travelers from Calgary to Regina.

Among the travelers, Mae Johnson and her son were returning home from visiting family in the Rocky Mountains when they were informed of the canceled flight. They said they didn’t have many options.

“We weren’t given many options. The WestJet airline agents told us if we didn’t get on the bus we would be stuck in Calgary until March 1,” Johnson said.

Other passengers had better luck changing their reservations.

Regina resident Chris Henderson was grateful WestJet was able to get him on a flight to Regina Monday morning.

“I was one of the lucky ones. I think there are still a lot more people stuck in Calgary right now,” Henderson said.

The musician added that the province’s airlines are becoming more and more unpredictable and unreliable.

“The air travel situation in Saskatchewan is really problematic and it will impact business here in this province,” Henderson said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed one way or another.”

CTV News contacted WestJet and Air Canada to find out if ground transportation was standard practice for canceled flights.

In a statement to CTV News, WestJet apologized to passengers on flight WS298, saying high demand for planes led to buses being used as an “immediate travel option.”

“Unfortunately, reaccommodation options were limited due to high travel demand over the weekend and significant weather events in Vancouver and Vancouver Island, which resulted in compounded operational impacts and limited availability planes,” the statement said.

“In order to best assist affected customers in reaching their destination as quickly as possible, ground transportation has been arranged to provide an immediate travel option for those who could not wait for another flight option.”

In another statement, Air Canada said ground transportation has only been used between Regina and Saskatoon on a very limited basis and only when there is no immediate option to travel to the other city.

Air Canada did not use ground transportation to other cities to or from Saskatchewan, the airline said.

Air Canada explained that general practices for handling canceled flights include rebooking passengers on available flights or reserving a larger aircraft, if possible, to accommodate them.

Regina International Airport said it has not made any decisions about how or when passengers arrive and that the situation is unique.

“This is the first time we’ve seen an airline transporting passengers from Calgary to Regina by bus,” said Justin Reves, director of customer experience and marketing at YQR.

Johnson hopes the airline will accept his request to cancel the flight, but is hesitant to book future flights west.

“I think my next trip will be to the Rockies since WestJet is unable to get me home,” Johnson said.