Airplane and pain: Five-hour flight turns into frustrating ordeal for Cape Breton family
SYDNEY — When Grace Knight and her two young children embarked on their first trip back to Cape Breton since the pandemic, they expected a five-hour Air Canada flight from Ottawa to Sydney.
However, it took them almost three days and cost over $1,400 in disbursements.
The frustrating experience began on July 18. Knight and son Jasper, 8, and daughter Raya, 4, traveled from their home in Kingston, Ont., and stayed overnight at an Ottawa hotel so they could catch a morning flight from Ottawa International Airport. .
“So Monday morning rolls around and the second I step foot in my car, I get a message that our flight has been canceled from Ottawa to Montreal,” she explained. “I go to the airport and they told me your only option was for us to book you in for the next day – my only option now was to stay in Ottawa for another day. So I had to find another hotel room at 6:30. Going from Kingston to Sydney I figured it would only be one day so we only had a change of clothes each and enough food for a day so I had to spend more than the money for a second hotel, then food for the whole day.
Then, when she arrived at the airport the next morning, Knight learned that her first flight from Ottawa to Montreal had been delayed, which would cause them to miss their connecting flight from Montreal to Sydney.
She said she went to the Air Canada customer service desk and was treated rudely by the representative. The Cape Breton Post contacted Air Canada media relations for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.
“The man who was there was not very nice. He wasn’t rude, he was just very strict about how he spoke to me and he said the only option you had was to fly out tonight at 4 p.m. to Toronto,” Knight recalled. . “So he wants me to fly from Ottawa to Toronto, from Toronto to Sydney and arrive in Sydney at midnight. So now I think of another day in Ottawa, no clothes, we still need a hotel room because we left and no food. So it’s just like more money I’m going to have to give out.
Accompanied by two exhausted children, Knight said she was beginning to panic and spoke to her aunt on the phone, describing their dilemma. She suggested they speak to another customer service representative.
“I was clearly very upset because my kids are now upset, you know, and freaking out a bit. I go back and talk to another Air Canada customer service representative and she’s like, ‘C stupid, it’s not your only option. She said, ‘I can get you on the flight at 10:55 this morning, take you to Montreal.’ »
The plane was delayed on takeoff, but when it finally landed in Montreal, Knight felt relieved. The feeling didn’t last long.
I can’t land
The flight to Sydney was delayed for hours and when they were finally ready to board, passengers were told that due to weather conditions in Sydney the plane might not be able to land.
“I just think ‘OK, we can land, no problem.’ So we fly to Sydney and he can’t land. He tries, but he can’t land the plane and he says, ‘We have to go back to Montreal,” Knight said. “Again, no food – all we had was water and pretzels.”
“We find customer service upstairs and the queue – I should have taken a picture – is over 200 people.”
When they landed in Montreal, it got worse. There was no ground crew as it was an unexpected flight so they had to spend an hour and a half on the plane before they could disembark.
It was just after 10 p.m. and the stewardess told Knight she should go to customer service to find out what would happen next. She stood in line at an Air Canada counter for 30 minutes only to find it was for baggage claims only.
“My kids are hungry and they get nervous and my daughter is four so she’s just non-stop. We find customer service upstairs and the queue – I should have taken a picture – is over 200 people,” she said, “and there’s no way I can stay here with these two children with nothing in their stomachs.
Wash clothes in the sink
Knight decided they needed to find a place to spend the night and something to eat.
She said she called five hotels, but they were all full. The only place that had a room was the Marriott attached to the airport, so they went there, spending nearly $600 for five hours of sleep and a meal for each of the kids.
“We were washing our underwear in a sink at the hotel with a bar of soap because we couldn’t get anything, nothing was open and the airport is so expensive for clothes anyway,” he said. she declared. “I couldn’t buy anything because I already had so much money and I don’t have a ton of money, so now all the money I had saved for this trip, I had now spent before even arriving in Nova Scotia.”
The next morning, Knight got the kids ready at 4:30 a.m. to make sure they could get through security some three hours before their flight. Everything went as planned and she had more than enough time for coffee and muffins. They end up lining up outside their gate and ready to board when there is a startling announcement: one of the flight attendants has been involved in an accident on her way to the airport. airport. With only one flight attendant, only half of the passengers could board.
“Of course, we were the ones who didn’t take the flight,” she said. “So again another flight left that we’re not on. We are now at this stage where we wonder what will happen. My son is so upset he starts crying because he doesn’t understand why it’s taking so long.
For Jasper, it was the low point of a long and tiring journey to see his grandparents and family in Sydney.
“I was sad for most of the trip and I don’t really know what else to say. I was upset and frustrated, yes,” he said. “The worst thing is when someone had a car accident and only half the people could get on the plane and none of them were family.
“I was super sad.”
Once again, Knight found herself in line at the Air Canada customer service counter to find out what would happen next. Fortunately, her parents know someone who works at Air Canada in Sydney who was able to get them on the next flight at 1:55 p.m.
Finally, a few hours later, they arrived in Sydney three days after leaving Kingston.
Knight said Air Canada agreed to compensate her $1,200 for the last flight, but what she really wants is a policy change that prioritizes families with young children.
“It’s not that I want a free flight or anything, but I want them to recognize that it’s a problem, especially with little kids. They should have noticed – why wouldn’t they put all the families on this plane that was only half full? Why were all the families left out, not just us? I know we get $400 back each for this flight that the stewardess of the ‘air couldn’t take, but I shouldn’t have to find hotel rooms for two nights and pack extra food and wash clothes in the sink with a bar of soap.