Much-anticipated family reunion in Sudbury turns into a fight with Air Canada
A long overdue reunion for a family that’s spent nearly six years apart due to military assignment has turned into a travelling nightmare for a woman and her fiancé.
“This is our family,” said Angela MacKenzie, who was travelling from Halifax to Sudbury. “We don’t get a chance to meet them and talk to them and hug them ever and being able to just go away to an isolated part of Sudbury on a lake, just us, was amazing, and I wish it wasn’t such a hassle to get there.”
The couple first had to deal with a delayed Air Canada flight on Aug. 13, which resulted in them missing the connecting flight from Toronto to Sudbury later that day.
MacKenzie said Air Canada told them the next flight wasn't for four days.
"At this point, this would have cut our trip in half and this was unacceptable to us,” she said.
So the couple took matters into their own hands and booked a five-hour taxi ride from Toronto to Sudbury so they would still get a full week to spend with family.
Air Passenger Rights, Canada’s independent non-profit consumer advocacy group for air travellers, said that's something that should have been taken care of by the airline.
“Air Canada had an obligation to transport a passenger to their destination at the very least within 48 hours, and if they weren’t able to do so, they should have found flights with other airlines,” said Gabor Lukacs.
“If Air Canada didn’t have an available flight for four days, they should have explored the possibility of putting the passenger on a Porter flight. That’s what the law is."
MacKenzie said Air Canada officials told her they would reimburse her for the cab ride and they would see her on her return flight on Aug. 21. But that's not what happened.
“When we checked into our flights online, it kept saying flight information not available, you’re unable to book,” she said.
That's when MacKenzie and her fiancé found out Air Canada marked them down as no shows after they didn’t show up to the alternative flight. That cancelled their return home flight, as well.
“They refused to admit any fault,” she said. “Refused to apologize on the phone and what they did say was the only way that you can get home is if you pay.
"We have paid for our flights home, and yet they’re making us re-pay just to get home because of an error caused by them that they’re refusing to acknowledge,” she added.
Paid for extra tickets
The couple ended up paying for two extra tickets, since staying in Sudbury to sort it out wasn’t an option. Her fiancé is in the military and would have been considered AWOL if not back on time.
In a statement to CTV News, Air Canada said in part “we are looking into this matter and we will be in touch with the customer.”
But MacKenzie said that communication has been limited to email only, and despite asking multiple times, Air Canada has not called her on the phone.
“I would like to see Air Canada call us or have a human conversation with us regarding how we can make this right,” she said. “I don’t think that forcing us to pay for flights we already paid for is right. So if we can get reimbursed for that, that would be great."
MacKenzie has receipts for their expenses, and wants to be reimbursed.
Lukacs said that instead of dealing with customer service, he would recommend she talk to a recognized agent or Air Canada’s case lawyers.
“I don’t think that Air Canada is going to get too far on this,” he said.
"The passengers went out of their way to take responsibility way beyond what they were supposed to for their own travel. Air Canada was clearly not complying with its legal obligation under the law. So I expect that this will not be a good day for Air Canada in court.”
He also recommended people in similar situations take the airline to small claims court, rather than the Canadian Transportation Agency.
"They are not going to help them," Lukacs said. "They are just going to tire them out, they’re going to drag things out and not do anything or worse they’ll work against the passenger because they are not impartial.”
In total MacKenzie said they paid an additional $2,000 in unexpected travel expenses between the taxi ride and the two additional tickets home.
“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this ever,” she said.
Right now, she said Air Canada is only offering $300 in e-credits for both herself and her fiancé.
This story has been updated to add a missing word in a quotation.