Here we go again.
As reported at thestar.com early today, Skyservice charter airline announced it has shut down, leaving frustrated customers at Pearson Airport.
It's impossible to say how this will play out, but affected customers might want to contact the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, which has a complaints division and a compensation fund.
The company said it was closing following the appointment of a receiver by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, explaining that recent changes in the market and the company's debt level didn't allow it to make a profit.
The Star's Dana Flavelle reports only one Skyservice flight was scheduled for Wednesday, taking passengers down to the Dominican Republic and bringing returning vacationers back. However, Skyservice flights were booked with various tour operators through to the end of April as the winter sun vacation season drew to a close.
Sunquest Vacations, the airline’s biggest customer and also its major creditor, said it had organized replacement flights for all of its customers in destination. Most of its remaining flights through to the end of April were not booked with Skyservice so are unaffected, the tour operator also said.
Flavelle wrote that "In most cases the replacement flights will leave on the same day as originally scheduled, Sunquest said in a statement."
TICO put out a press release on the issue Wednesday night.
"Skyservice is an airline and as such, is not registered with TICO," officials said. "However, there is consumer protection available under the Ontario Travel Industry Act, 2002 and its Regulation. Registered Ontario tour operators (travel wholesalers) who packaged Skyservice flights or sold air only with Skyservice are required under the legislation to provide alternate replacement travel services or a full refund to the customer.
"Consumers who are affected by the closure of Skyservice should contact their travel agent for information with respect to any alternate travel arrangements or to obtain a full refund."
“'By law, all travel agencies and tour operators operating in Ontario must be registered with TICO,'” said Michael Pepper, President of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO). “When you purchase your travel services through an Ontario registered travel agency, you are protected by the consumer protection provisions found under the Travel Industry Act, 2002.”
"'The failure of Skyservice Airlines drives home TICO’s message that the best way for consumers to protect themselves, whether booking online or at a travel agency, is to deal with an Ontario registered travel agency,'” said Pepper. "'TICO encourages consumers to Always Look Before You Book. Look for the TICO logo and the TICO registration number whether online or in person. If you are not sure whether a travel agency is registered, go to TICO’s website at www.tico.ca and use the Travel Agency Search feature or contact TICO at 1-888-451-TICO.'"
Reviews posted to the Star's website weren't terribly favourable to Skyservice, with people complaining about a lack of food and cramped seats. But it was pretty cheap, and some readers took the complainers to task for wanting their cake and eating it too, so to speak.
The Skyservice website wasn't terribly helpful. One of the statements on the site stated that "Skyservice is the number one requested airline for the charter industry with customers that include tour operators, corporations, professional sport teams, governments, relief agencies, and travel incentive companies. The airline is widely recognized for its quality service and the versatility of its charter operations."
Sunwing travel recently merged with Signature Vacations. Signature and Sunquest Vacations are said to be the two biggest customers for Skyservice charter services.
The Canadian air travel market has been particularly volatile, and it's hard to say how today's news will affect charter operators. Sunquest and Signature are large companies and will do everything they can to calm any jitters in the marketplace - and any concerns consumers might have about flying charters versus regular airlines.
The fact that Sunquest said it will serve all customers - and probably on the same day - should serve to keep most folks happy. But it's certainly a sign of continued instability in a business that's seen more than its share. We haven't heard the last of these types of problems, not by a long shot.