Travelers who booked with Swoop Airlines have been left frustrated after flights to the U.S. were abruptly cancelled due to a day in the airline’s operational approval in that country.

News of the cancellations started to circulate social media early this week. Many passengers complained they were only alerted one week prior to their vacations that the airline would not be able to carry out the flights. Three customers claimed the airline was not providing compensation for the travel disruption.

The airline launched across Canada in June. It was set to be the first low-cost Canadian carrier to fly to the United States.

Swoop received regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly and land in the United States on Oct. 10. But the company says that the final “operational approval” has still not arrived.

A spokesperson for Swoop told CTV News Toronto that it is common for airlines to sell tickets prior to receiving operational approval.

“There are a number of other checks that we needed as well, including this final operational approval that hasn’t been received,” Karen McIsaac, Sr. Communications Advisor for Swoop, said in a phone interview. “In this case, unfortunately, that lead time wasn’t enough to be able to process.”

“We want to apologize to our customers who are in this position and we are working with them directly to ensure that we can rebook them and minimize their travel disruptions.”

McIsaac said that 56 of its flights were impacted by the delay. Swoop is a subsidiary for WestJet Airlines and was able to lease a plane from the company to operate some flights on schedule. Thirty-two flights remain cancelled.

Swoop said that it expects to receive the pending approval by Oct. 27.

“We remain optimistic that we will receive the outstanding approval in short order … at which time Swoop will resume its scheduled flights,” McIsaac said.

The founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of travellers, said that he was “profoundly troubled” by what occurred at Swoop.

“An airline can apply for permission to sell tickets before it has completed the regulatory approval process,” Gabor Lukacs told CTV News Toronto. “In that case, the airline’s permission to do so is typically contingent on the airline advising the public that these tickets are sold subject to regulatory approval. My understanding is this didn’t happen in the case of Swoop.”

“It appears as though Swoop represented to the public that they were ready to fly when in reality they did not have all their papers in place.”

McIsaac said that the airline did disclose that flights were subject to government approval to customers on their website. However, McIsaac could not confirm where the disclaimer was posted on the website or when it was first posted.

Passengers worried about travel

Back in September, John Milne booked a vacation to Tampa Bay for his family. Since hearing about the cancellations, he wants to fly with another airline, but says that Swoop won’t allow him to cancel his flight.

“It seemed like a deal at the time,” he told CTV News Barrie. “We booked the tickets and then we heard through news outlets and social media that Swoop Airlines was having to cancel flights.”

Milner’s flight is for Dec. 26, but explained that he wants to rebook right now because plane tickets for that time of year can get expensive. He said that when he called a Swoop representative, he was told that he did not qualify for a refund and that if he cancelled his flight, he would be charged a fee.

“They said ‘well we should know if we have approval by Oct. 27th and so perhaps you want to get back to us then and then we can talk about a refund,’” Milner said.

“I think they are operating under false pretenses,” he said. “When you get them on the telephone and you ask to speak with a manager, you are told there is no manager. It is very frustrating. If it ends up costing us a little bit more booking with another airline, at least we will have the certainty we are currently lacking. I don’t want to do business with them.”

McIsaac said that Swoop is working with customers directly impacted by the flight cancellations to rebook them with other airlines. Swoop is also providing full refunds and compensation to those that require it, she said.

-With files from the Canadian Press