No surprises with Air Canada

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Editor: I wish I could say I was surprised by Teresa Wright’s Jan. 7 story of Air Canada leaving a passenger with mobility issues stranded in Montreal. My 70-year-old mother, who requires a wheelchair to travel, has been stranded at the Montreal Airport since Friday, Jan. 3 when she landed there en route to St. John’s from Denver to find her connecting flight cancelled due to weather.

Air Canada’s complete disregard for her situation is astonishing. According to an agent at its Medical Assistance Clinic via telephone, no special consideration is given to wheelchair passengers when a scheduled hours-long layover stretches to days on end. It’s regrettable Air Canada views assisting such passengers as something “special” considering they promote themselves as an accessible airline, and in fact, provide a wheelchair as requested whenever my mother travels.

The airline, though not obligated to, as the flight cancellation was weather-related, did kindly offer hotel vouchers to impacted passengers. When asked if it was possible to get a voucher for the hotel located at the airport to avoid the transportation issues associated with getting to and from the off-site hotels being offered, the answer was a resounding no. Fortunately, my mother, who lives on a fixed income, has family who came to her rescue and arranged her stay at the airport.

Over the course of three days I spent more than 30 hours holding on the reservation line trying to book an earlier flight. Wait times often exceeded four hours. Sometimes a sole agent was available at the airport to assist hundreds of passengers with re-booking and obtaining meal vouchers. People stood in line for hours — not an option for my mother given her mobility issues and lack of access to a wheelchair. One is provided to get to and from a plane, but not to assist with navigating an unplanned days long layover.

Air Canada boasted a record quarterly profit of $365 million last November. My mother’s four-day stay in Montreal cost nearly $1,500, which happens to be the sum total of her monthly income. It seems reasonable to expect Canada’s largest and most profitable airline to have policies and procedures in place to accommodate passengers in my mother’s predicament. At the very least, an attempt to learn and understand their needs is warranted. Addressing them adequately would be icing on the cake.

Rhonda Hackett,

Denver, CO

Organizations: Air Canada, Montreal Airport

Geographic location: Montreal, Denver, Canada

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