A public inquiry into the tarmac delays of two Air Transat flights last month got underway Wednesday in Ottawa, where disagreement over certain facts were in focus.

The Canadian Transportation Agency said it decided to hold the two-day public hearing to better understand incidents involving Air Transat Flights 157 and 507 at Ottawa’s international airport last month.

On July 31, Air Transat flight TS157, scheduled to fly from Brussels to Montreal, sat on the tarmac for almost six hours at Ottawa’s Macdonald–Cartier International Airport after the plane stopped there to refuel amid a storm. The second flight, TS507  coming from Rome, was also delayed on the tarmac the same day due to a storm.

Passengers who offered up their testimonies recall some facts differently than airline staff. There’s also some discrepancy on how events unfolded between the airline and airport, who have pointed the blame at each other for the delays.    

Some of the unresolved facts for both flights include: whether the captain was informed several times that the refuelling process would take 30 minutes, information about the duration of the delay, whether passengers suffered from heat on the aircraft, whether the passengers were served water – and even whether all snacks, candy, and other food on board were distributed until supplies ran out.

A panel of passengers were first to speak Wednesday, with one person describing her experience as “deplorable.” Patricia Abraham, who was on TS507 coming from Rome, also recalled a young person getting sick, causing a stench in the hot aircraft.  

On Wednesday afternoon, the CTA was set to hear from the Ottawa International Airport Authority, and the Aircraft Service International Group. The Ottawa Airport Authority has said it isn't responsible for determining priority for refuelling activity. And in its initial statement following the incident, it claimed there were air stairs and a gate available, but the airline was uncommunicative.

Air Transat will have a chance to tell its side of the story Thursday.  

Another main objective of the hearing, according to the CTA, will be to determine whether Air Transat followed its tariff, and whether that tariff is reasonable. 

Air Transat's tariff, which is a contract between the airline and its passengers, says it must offer passengers the option of getting off a grounded plane after 90 minutes.

CTA Chair Scott Streiner will offer final remarks Thursday afternoon.