SCOTCHTOWN, N.S. –
A Cape Breton woman has received an apology from Air Canada after she missed a flight home to see her dying father.
Allyson White and her brother were supposed to fly home last Thursday to see their father, who was in intensive care after going into cardiac arrest.
But their flight from Toronto to Sydney, N.S., was cancelled, leaving them stranded at the Toronto airport.
The siblings tried to get on another plane the next day, but the only seats available were in business class, at $4,000 each.
In the end, White had to say goodbye to her father over the phone while standing in line at Air Canada’s customer service desk at the Toronto airport.
“I think, minimally, they could have given us those seats that were open,” White told CTV Atlantic on Wednesday. “They would not entertain the conversation of getting us on that flight.”
A relative who is an Air Canada elite flyer was eventually able to rebook them seats on a flight to Halifax, a five-hour drive from their home in Cape Breton, the following day at 7:50 a.m., White recounted. When they finally landed in Nova Scotia, they drove directly to the hospital in Sydney.
White says they spent an hour with her father, who was no longer responsive at that point, before he was taken off life support.
Since her story aired on CTV News, White has received an apology from an Air Canada representative.
It reads in part: “I wish I could have been at Toronto Pearson with you personally to provide support … we are sorry for letting you down and so deeply so at such a difficult time. I have asked our finance team to review whether your tickets are eligible for a partial refund under our bereavement fares.”
“They said the employees we dealt with weren’t apathetic,” White said in response to the airline’s apology. “It’s insulting to hear that from a customer service email. They weren’t there. They didn’t experience the situation the way we did.”
Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate, has been following the story closely. He agrees Air Canada’s compensation offer isn’t enough.
“As I understand, there was a flight. There were seats on that flight. They were just being cheap,” Lukacs said. “If Air Canada really wants to make it right, they have to do two things. A: Provide a five-digit compensation cash, by a cheque. And B: Put an end to this ongoing problem of disobeying the relevant provisions of the APPR.”
Since returning home, White has been busy making arrangements for her father’s funeral, which is scheduled for Friday.
Air Canada has also offered her a total of $800 in “eCoupons,” but she’s still not sure if she’ll accept any compensation from the airline.
“I don’t think there is anything Air Canada can do at this stage, but the thought of anyone else going through what we went through is just awful,” White said.
White says, after her father’s funeral, she plans to drive to Halifax so she can fly back to Calgary with a different airline.