Luggage bags are amassed in the bag claim area at Toronto Pearson International Airport, as a major winter storm disrupts flights in and out of the airport, in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Federal politicians grilled executives of Canadian airlines and airports Thursday regarding the holiday travel disruptions, calling the wave of cancelled and delayed flights a “disaster” that ruined winter getaway plans and kept families apart at Christmas.

Members of the transport committee called company representatives to a meeting to explain why so many travellers endured long delays, cancellations and lost luggage over the Christmas break. Hundreds of Sunwing Airlines customers were stranded in resorts for days with little or no communications from the carrier.

“This holiday season was a complete disaster for my constituents and Canadians across the country,” said Calgary MP George Chahal.

The airlines said snow and cold weather in much of the country grounded planes and slowed the movement of crews, causing a cascade effect of late and cancelled flights across their networks. Executives from WestJet Airlines, Air Canada and Sunwing apologized to affected customers and said they were complying with the regulations that cover refunds and compensation.

“We failed to deliver to the level that we had expected and that Canadians had expected from us over this holiday season,” said Sunwing president Len Corrado.

The winter break was a closely watched test for airlines and airports after the congestion that marked the summer travel season of 2022. A surge of travellers eager to visit family and friends for the first time since the pandemic began in March, 2020, ran into poorly staffed airlines, airports and government agencies that screen passengers.

“I would argue that [Christmas] was even worse,” B.C. MP Mark Strahl said.

Quebec MP Julie Vignola said the

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