Canada’s process for handling travel complaints is “broken,” one aviation expert says, as passengers struggled to get to their destinations this holiday season amid widespread delays and cancellations.

“It is not built for speed, it is not built for efficiency,” John Gradek, head of McGill University’s aviation management program, told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

“It is built for thoroughness and is built to make sure that the regulatory regimes are put in place.”

As it stands, the Canadian Transportation Agency says it could take up to 18 months to have an air travel complaint reviewed.

“We need another body that can expedite these complaints, that passengers who have complaints can get an answer very quickly,” Gradek said.

“Right now, waiting two years, which is what likely will happen to get your hearing on a complaint, just is not acceptable.”

A severe winter storm in Canada left holiday travellers stranded on Via Rail trains and at airports abroad, disrupting vacations and forcing passengers to miss Christmas back home.

Gradek says while weather did contribute to the recent flight disruptions, a lack of planning and experienced airport and airline staff were also factors.

“I don’t think it’s a question of overbooking. The problem in this case was the fact that the flights are all full,” he said.

“Christmas has been sold out for months and the airlines know that these two weeks between Dec. 15 and the third of January were the most profitable weeks of the year. So they flew as much capacity as they can, a lot of seats were sold, prices were very high, there was no empty seats around in case that you had a diversion or a disruption or a cancellation or a delay.

“So passengers whose flights were cancelled, were delayed, (had) no backup. Nothing was available for passengers to get on those flights.”

Sunwing has since cancelled all flights in Saskatchewan until Feb. 3

The chair of the House of Commons transport committee said on Tuesday that he plans to convene a meeting where representatives from both Sunwing and Via Rail will be called to explain why travel was so disruptive over the holidays.

Canada’s Opposition MPs have also called for an “urgent” meeting of the committee to discuss the issue.

Gradek says Canadians deserve answers, including why it took so long to get rescue flights in place for stranded passengers.

In November, the union representing thousands of workers in Canada’s aviation sector raised concerns about what it said were plans by Sunwing to hire temporary foreign workers to address the country’s pilot shortage ahead of a busy winter travel season.

Gradek questioned whether Sunwing’s ability to get temporary foreign workers might have affected its operations, as well.

With files from Producer Jennifer Ferreira, CTV News Saskatoon Digital Journalist Chandra Philip and The Canadian Press

This content was originally published here.