Ottawa Airport plans to terminate operating licence for ground-services provider to Flair, Sunwing

Sunwing aircraft
Sunwing aircraft

The Ottawa International Airport Authority is cancelling the operating licence of the company that handles ground services for Flair and Sunwing, saying the firm’s performance has declined to the point that it’s become “untenable.”

In a news release on Wednesday, the airport authority said that in recent weeks it has “observed a degradation of service levels associated with ground-handling activities” provided to Flair and Sunwing by U.K.-based firm Menzies Aviation.

The airlines use Menzies for their aircraft-marshalling and baggage-handling activities at YOW, the statement said.

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The authority said it issued written warnings to Menzies, but concerns about the calibre of the firm’s service “reached untenable levels in the past week.” On Monday, the authority gave Menzies 30 days’ notice that it would be terminating the company’s licence to operate at YOW.

“The service levels passengers from both airlines have had to endure do not meet the customer experience threshold the OIAA is committed to facilitate,” the authority added. “We will continue to work with the airlines to ensure that their passengers enjoy smooth, efficient travel when flying to and from the Ottawa International Airport.”

Airport spokesperson Krista Kealey told OBJ Menzies requires a licence to operate at the airport to ensure it follows all regulations.

But she explained that the company is hired by the airlines themselves, not the airport authority. The firm is still under contract to Flair and Sunwing and is still working at YOW, Kealey added.

The authority had brought “concerns” about Menzies’ service to the attention of the company’s management and “felt, based on recent activities, that we had to take it to the (next) level,” Kealey said, adding: “Things really did get to a breaking point.” She declined to elaborate. 

“This is not something that happens every day,” she said. “We’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

A Menzies spokesperson said Wednesday afternoon the company would offer a response to OBJ “as soon as possible.” 

In a statement issued Thursday morning, Sunwing said it has established contingency plans to maintain normal operations and mitigate the impact of the licence cancellation. The airline said members of its management team will be on site “to work with various stakeholders” at the airport.

We will continue to work with Ottawa International Airport to ensure our customers’ expectations are being met,” the airline added.

Flair did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move comes as the Ottawa Airport is trying to recover from the effects of the pandemic, which grounded the majority of the terminal’s flights for the past three years and caused a steep decline in passenger traffic.

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