Air Transat instructed a Canadian charter airline to mislead aviation authorities and its passengers about unscheduled stops on flights from Mexico, according to sources and a string of emails obtained by CBC News.
The emails should make every air passenger “skeptical about ‘unscheduled’ refuelling stops,” says air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs.
The problems stem from Air Transat needing more planes for its Mexico routes, and then hiring a charter airline that could only complete the route non-stop under ideal or favourable flying conditions.
The complicated saga began in 2016 when Air Transat hired Flair Air, a B.C.-based charter company with a fleet of five older Boeing 737-400s.
The prescribed range of the 737-400 is 4,176 kilometres; the flight distance from Edmonton to Cancun is 4,248 km.
Two of the Flair planes had extra fuel tanks that would enable them to fly a full load of 156 passengers safely between Edmonton and Cancun — at least when flying southbound, say Flair pilots, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
When taking off in colder climates, jets don’t use as much fuel, and flying south doesn’t go against the prevailing jet stream.
But flying north — with a full complement of passengers and luggage, taking off in a hot climate where it is more difficult to create thrust, and flying against headwinds — requires much more fuel, often more than their planes can carry, the Flair pilots say.
Air Transat’s manager of commercial operations was prepared for the planes not being able to make the northbound flight non-stop. In an email to Flair’s director of flight operations, Mauricio Diaz gave the following instructions.
“Due to Mexican authorities restrictions, we always need to file a direct flight (flight plans) CUN-YEG [from Cancun to Edmonton],” he wrote in a May 2016 email to Flair.