Response to an article published in the Ottawa Citizen on March 22


Kathie Stewart’s March 22 story about a passenger on an Air Transat flight out of Montreal bringing relief supplies to Haiti (“Organizations help nurse flying with aid to Haiti; woman loads up on vital supplies for family”) portrays the Canadian airline industry in an unfortunate and unfair light.

Referring to the fact that passengers are limited to 50 kg of luggage and must pay $12 per kg over and above that limit, the reporter states that “ Air Transat has not adjusted excess baggage policies to accommodate travellers bringing supplies to Haiti […] Air Transat allows a maximum of 50 kilograms of personal luggage. Passengers are allowed 32 kilograms of excess baggage, but must pay $12 for each excess kilogram.”

In fact, as was explained to the reporter, Air Transat’s normal luggage allocation is 20 kg. In the case of flights to Haiti, the limit has been set at 50 kg to accommodate our customers travelling there to visiting family and friends. In other words, our policy has been “permanently adjusted” to Haiti’s reality, and allowing more than 50 kg as the base allocation is impractical, as the physical limitations of the aircraft could be quickly reached.

Most important, we would like to point out that Air Transat is regularly solicited by customers who want to bring supplies to our sun destinations for humanitarian reasons, as was the case here. In 95% of cases we agree to accommodate them, allowing an average of up to 20 free additional kg of luggage per passenger. However, our check-in agents are not entitled to grant such special authorizations themselves. Any passenger wishing to benefit from this humanitarian program must make a request in advance, generally by e-mail. Air Transat carries as much as two tonnes of goods to populations in need each year, including for Not Just Tourists (NJT), a regular beneficiary of this program that is quoted in Ms. Stewart’s story.

The reporter quotes someone who we gather is a Canadian Tire customer picked at random, who says: “I think a while back, airlines would have gone out of their way to help their customers, but times have changed.” Given the information provided to the reporter, or available to her by other means, we find this way of concluding the article extremely unfortunate, especially based on an uninformed source with no apparent expertise or authority in the matter.

Following the January 12 earthquake, Air Transat organized four humanitarian flights to Haiti carrying more than 125 tonnes of supplies and hundreds of volunteers, and provided its logistical and financial support to a number of NGOs working on the ground. This included a huge effort by our employees, including flight crews and staffers onboard who took care of Haitian orphans we brought back to Canada. Our employees donated time, clothing and food, as well as money. This information is available in the attached news release (this and others are available to the public on our website). Other airlines, most notably Air Canada, made similar efforts. We resumed our regular flights to Haiti on March 10, and we remain supportive of humanitarian organizations on the ground, providing them with free tickets and free cargo space. This is why we feel Ms. Stewart’s piece, and especially its ending, does a disservice to all the airlines involved in this massive and historic humanitarian effort.