An Okanagan senior had to live off of airplane food and sleep on the floor while stranded in an airport for five days.
Carla Leinweber, 66, said that a string of cancelled flights left her stuck in Toronto for days while trying to fly east for a vacation in Newfoundland.
Her trip started off as planned. Leinweber left her home in Okanagan Falls early in the morning for a flight on June 14, departing from the Kelowna airport.
Leinweber said that she should have known the trip wasn’t meant to be when there was no ground crew available to unload the Air Canada plane at her layover in Montreal.
Her next flight was supposed to take her to Newfoundland, where she would meet a travel group for a tour of the coastal province.
The connecting flight was delayed, changed and cancelled multiple times before airport staff suggested, late at night, that the travellers impacted by the cancellation pack it in and book a hotel for the night.
The next day, the “nightmare” continued.
Air Canada has announced that the company is short staffed and they are having to cancel flights as a result.
Philip Elchitz, senior manager of airport operations at the Kelowna airport, said that YLW has been impacted on a by-the -flight cancellation, but the staffing issues at Air Canada are out of his control.
Plagued by a shortage of pilots, ground crew, flight attendants and gate-workers, the remaining staff at Air Canada struggled to keep up with the mess of cancellations and missing luggage.
Flights out of Montreal were changed and cancelled until Air Canada employees made the decision to fly the group of “stranded” travellers to Toronto, where they were told they would have an easier time catching a flight to Newfoundland.
Leinweber said that in Toronto her flights were cancelled more times than she can remember.
She described one instance where the departure gate was changed five times in two hours, leading her on a goosechase, weighed down by carry-on bags, through the international airport before ending with a disappointing cancellation.
Days were spent in a state of airport limbo, in a cycle of security lines, waiting for flights that would end up cancelled, having to retrieve luggage, rebooking and then going back through security.
“The luggage area was like a morgue of dead suitcases,” said Leinweber.
Leinweber said that at night, the group of stranded travellers would stay at the airport, rather than a hotel, in anticipation of a promised 8 p.m. flight. Without fail, the flight would end up continuously delayed until its eventual cancellation in the wee hours of the morning.
She spent two nights in a hotel in total and three nights curled up on an airport lounge chair with hundreds of other disgruntled travellers before giving up on Air Canada.
Leinweber said that her only way out of the cycle of security and luggage retrieval was on a flight home with WestJet.
While she was in line to book her flight home, Leinweber collapsed to the ground. Exhausted and dehydrated after days of living in airport, she was ready to go home.
Throughout the ordeal she was given four $10 food vouchers and was told to submit the receipts for her two nights in a hotel. She has not yet received reimbursement and doesn’t expect to receive any money since her hotels were not on Air Canada’s pre-approved list, which were already booked up.
She was also told that her flights to and returning from Newfoundland will not be reimbursed because she “used part of the trip.”