It all started when Air Canada told a family from the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island that their 10-year-old son had been bumped from a flight on the first leg of their journey to Costa Rica for March break.
Shanna and Brett Doyle told CBC News that they had booked their vacation last August but when they tried to select their seats, they were told that son Cole would not be flying that day.
Cole’s mother went to the Charlottetown airport to find out why and was told the flight was overbooked. The Doyles were traveling with friends, so she asked if Cole could get a seat if one of them offered up a seat for the pre-teen.
The Air Canada agent told her that the seat would probably be offered to a frequent flyer.
“I was told that while yes we could give up our seat, there would be no guarantee that the seat would go to my son,” Doyle said.
The problems didn’t end there when plan B failed. The Doyles tried to arrange another flight for Cole and his father out of Moncton, in the neighboring province of Brunswick, but when they arrived at the airport, that flight was canceled.
The pair ended up in Halifax, Nova Scotia to catch another connector.
The last-minute switches cost the family at least $1,000.
Air Canada has told the family to submit a claim for expenses incurred by the flight and it will be assessed for compensation.
But Doyle says even full compensation doesn’t justify a business practice that induces travel chaos and traveler stress.
“We’re spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for airline tickets, and we’re not guaranteed a seat. So my question is what in reality are we paying for?” said Doyle.
The boy without a seat wondered if their would be a vacation at all.
“I’m like crying in the back seat, and I don’t have a plane. Like how do I get to where I’m going? I don’t know if I’m even going to make it with my family,” he said.
In an email to CBC News, Air Canada says it has offered its apologies to the family and is assessing their compensation claim, adding that it appreciates “customers are inconvenienced when they are affected by an oversold flight and thus we take a very conservative approach to avoid this situation arising, and when it does, we pay significant compensation.”
“Overselling also makes it possible for us to sell flexible tickets, including fully refundable tickets, which many customers desire,” Air Canada said in the email.