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New tool helps travellers navigate flight disruptions, compensation

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An Ontario mom is sharing her baggage delay nightmare as a new online tool to help travellers navigate common flight disruptions launched Tuesday.

Karla Hansma's 15-year-old daughter Arianna was devastated recently when her luggage was lost on a direct Porter Airlines flight from Ottawa to Thunder Bay.

Arianna was flying to play ringette in her first Ontario Winter Games and had checked her equipment in more than three hours before her 9:35 a.m. flight was supposed to take off Feb. 15.

"It's a big deal for a U16 player to make it because most of the time it's U19 players … so to make it as a 15-year-old is a pretty big deal," Hansma said.

She said she was told by a Porter customer service rep "It will come on the next flight, this happens all the time."

But it took three days without any information or updates from the airline, Hansma said.

Increasingly common

Stories like this are becoming increasingly common according to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).

"According to a recent CAA survey, over six in 10 (61 per cent) Canadians say they or someone they know has experienced a flight disruption in the last two years," the CAA said in a news release.

Legislation passed in 2019 dictates when and how an airline is responsible for compensating a customer due to issues such as flight delays, cancellations, lost bags or getting bumped from a flight.

Now, using the CAA Air Passenger Help Guide, travellers will be able to figure out what the rules are surrounding disruptions and what they are owed within five clicks.

"Travelling can be complex and the rules protecting air travellers are complicated," said Ian Jack, vice-president of public affairs for CAA National.

"CAA is stepping up by providing Canadians with the information they need when things go wrong."

Couldn't play

Because her luggage didn't arrive until Sunday, Arianna wasn't able to play her first game on Friday.

 "It initially didn't travel on the flight because of aircraft weight and capacity limitations," a Porter spokesperson confirmed to CTVNewsNorthernOntario.ca in an email.

"Unfortunately, it then took until the evening of Feb. 17 to reach Thunder Bay before being returned the following day."

Volunteers at the youth tournament rounded up some equipment for her to use for the second and third games, but Hansma said "You can't just jump into someone else's equipment."

Arianna Hansma, 15, playing ringette in 2024 Ontario Winter Games. Feb. 17/24 (Karla Hansma)

Despite buying her daughter a new pair of skates, Arianna didn't play as much as she would have had she had her own equipment as skates take time to break in.

"We paid a lot of money to attend this event only to have her miss a game and barely play two others.  She was devastated for days and it affected her immensely," the angry mother told CTV News.

It also affected the team, she said, putting them short-handed on the ice.

The ringette team's photographer also had his luggage and equipment delayed.

After getting her luggage and equipment back Sunday, Arianna was able to play the remaining two round-robin games, semi-final and final gold medal game.

Team Green ended up winning the tournament in the final 5-4 over Team Orange.

Arianna Hansma, 15, won gold playing ringette in the Ontario Winter Games in Thunder Bay. Feb. 19/24 (Karla Hansma)

Reimbursement uncertainty

"Our team has now been in touch with the family and confirmed compensation for them," Porter confirmed to CTV News in an email.

"We apologize for the delay and for how it affected their trip."

Hansma estimates she had to spend more than $800 to replace all of Arianna's toiletries and purchase the new pair of skates.

"They said they would reimburse the out-of-pocket expenses but it has to go through a review process and I don't know when I'm going to see that money," she said.

"As a single mom, money is very tight. I don't have disposable income to replace these things."

Hansma said she thinks the airline should make some internal policy changes to increase the reliability of its checked baggage service.

"It's unacceptable that this happens all the time," she said.

"I was willing to accept it if it came on the next flight, but it didn't and they didn't even know where the bag was."

Help for all travellers

The help guide is open to the general public without requiring a membership to access it.

"Travel is not as certain as it was and … if everything goes according to plan, that's a bonus these days. I think you kind of go into travel knowing that there might be you know a disruption here or there, luggage lost and all that kind of stuff," CAA spokesperson Krisitne D'Arbelles told CTV News in an online interview.

 "We do think that this guide is really going to help people when they are in those stressful times and they have a cancelled flight or a delayed flight or they're stuck on the tarmac."

The online tool can be bookmarked in your browser and is accessible on any device with an internet connection.

It even includes links on how to file a claim for compensation.

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