Just when you thought you've heard all the horror stories about airlines and their alleged terrible treatment of passengers with the string of woes being linked to United Airlines, here comes yet another one. This time it involves a Canadian airline and a minor left cold, scared and trapped in the airport for a night.
Fifteen-year-old Derrin Espinola was left trapped at Toronto Pearson airport overnight after Air Canada refused to provide him with accommodation. Espinola was flying solo from Denver to Thunder Bay on May 1, with a stopover in Toronto. But there was a delay at Denver which resulted to the teenager missing his connecting flight.
Espinola approached the airline staff for help and was told they could rebook him onto a flight to Thunder Bay at 6 p.m. but not until the following day. Worse, there was no offer of food vouchers or accommodation for the night.
The teenager said he felt like he was trapped in the airport with nowhere to go. He said he could not leave. He also could not get a hotel by his lonesome since he is a minor. He felt like he was being held a prisoner. The boy said he got very hungry, very tired and very scared. He also felt uncertain about what's really going to happen to him.
He did try to approach several Air Canada desks, explaining that he was a minor and needed help, but he said he did not get any assistance. He spent most of the night staying awake at the airport for fear of being robbed. His mother, Karin Patock, tried to help her son by spending hours on the phone trying to talk to Air Canada. But she was only given the message that the airport is under construction and they can not accommodate anyone at that point. She was asked to just call back again. Patock finds the response unacceptable.
On its website, Air Canada actually says that in the event of delays, youths aged 12-17 who are traveling alone will be taken care of by agents. Their meals, accommodations, transportation if needed, will be provided by the airline. Espinola, being a minor, was not offered any of such services. Patock feels bad that her son despite his age was rebooked like any other passenger for the next day's flight, and was not sensitive to his needs as an unaccompanied minor.
The teenager's horror would have continued when his rebooked flight was canceled anew the following day and rebooked again for the next day. It would have meant another scary and uncomfortable night at the airport for the boy, but his family decided to book him to fly with another airline to end his woes.
Patock has filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency. An air Canada spokesperson attributed the troubles to an ongoing runway construction at Toronto Pearson, which they said was also aggravated by severe weather conditions last week in the Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa and surrounding areas. The airline also said it is looking into the matter and will be contacting the family.
The airline's statement, however, did not address the issue why the minor was not given proper accommodations and other necessary assistance when his flight was delayed and rebooked for the next day.