Air Canada is facing public backlash after reportedly denying an elderly woman a mercy flight to P.E.I. to visit her dying brother.
The woman’s granddaughter, P.E.I. resident Joanne Hannah, said on Air Canada’s Facebook page that staff would not allow the two to board their flight from Pearson International Airport in Toronto last Monday because they were two minutes late.
However, Hannah said she spent the first 15 minutes at the airport trying to locate a wheelchair for her grandmother as well as an occupied Air Canada kiosk.
Hannah said she tried explaining the confusion to the ticket agent, who still denied them the flight to see her grandmother’s brother and Kensington resident Gerald Profitt.
“I actually thought she was kidding,” Hannah wrote in her public complaint, which has generated much support since it was posted last week. “I also informed her that we were flying to be with a dying family member who wasn’t expected to make it through the night. She then informed me that I should have been there two minutes ago.”
While Hannah described airport staff as being generally unhelpful through the ordeal, asking to speak to a manager didn’t help matters.
“I pleaded with her to at least let my grandmother on the flight, I’d send her luggage the next day and take a different flight,” wrote Hannah. “She told me ‘I don’t care who is dying. You’re late, you’re late, too bad, so sad, you don’t fly today’ and walked away.”
The words cut through Hannah like a knife.
“And left me standing there in disbelief,” she said.
During an interview with Postmedia News, Hannah said her cousin then drove back to Pearson to pick them up.
He was ultimately arrested for mischief after getting upset with staff and throwing luggage tickets at the wall.
Hannah said a worker then threatened to flag her grandmother from also going on future flights.
After the incident, the two returned to Air Canada the next morning to try and get her grandmother a standby flight to P.E.I., with all flights booked up until the next day.
Ultimately, Hannah received some tragic news while checking in her grandmother for the standby flight.
Profitt died on Tuesday at the age of 70.
In the Postmedia interview, Hannah said her grandmother would have had approximately six hours with Profitt before his death if she had have gone on the original flight.
“I received a phone call that our loved on had just passed away as I was sitting my suitcase on your scale,” she said in the complaint, adding that she had to break the news to her grandmother in the middle of the airport. “You (Air Canada) really should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Air Canada later responded to the post by inviting Hannah to refer any further comments to the airline’s website.
When asked for comment by The Guardian, the airline issued a statement on the incident.
“This is a very regrettable situation and we are sorry the family was unable to travel in time. Unfortunately, they did arrive late for check-in, which is why they were not boarded,” said the statement. “We are in touch with the family and will be following up with the customers directly as well as with our employees, including investigating why it was not possible to board them on an exceptional basis due to the circumstances.”