A couple from Sudbury are fed up with Air Canada after being stranded in the Philippines and having to spend for new tickets to go home.
What made the situation worse, said Graham Knutson, was that it was far from a leisure trip in the first place.
“We were there for the funeral of my wife’s mother,” he said.
Knutson met her Filipino spouse 13 years ago and had been to her homeland twice before without any travel disturbances. On this sad occasion, Ederlin was spending an extra two weeks with family to grieve.
The pair had flights on either side via Air Canada but in each case their ticket home was not awarded and they were separately stuck in Manila while trying to make new arrangements.
“The tickets alone were only $8,000 to go home after being helpless,” Knutson said.
This does not include the hardship of lost money or delays by several days on forfeited return fares.
“For the itinerary we didn’t use to go home, Air Canada just pocketed it – they didn’t offer to reimburse it or anything,” Knutson said. “And then of course you have the result of missed innings, missed it, that and all. Overall, it’s over $10,000.”
Problems began immediately when a mechanical problem delayed the pair’s flight from Sudbury.
“We were three and a half hours late to leave, so when we got to Toronto they put us in a hotel overnight and mortgaged us to another airline,” he said. “Instead of taking the normal route to Air Canada, they put us on a completely different itinerary – but they didn’t tell anyone. So we got there 24 hours late, but when I got home to board my plane, So they said I couldn’t board because our tickets were out of order.”
Knutson said he tried to call Air Canada through their international number, but was unable to reach anyone, and the emails were unanswered.
So he made his way to downtown Manila, bought a SIM card that would work with his phone, spent three nights in a hotel, and eventually bought a new ticket through Philippine Airlines to return to Canada.
When he finally got back to Sudbury, Knutson said he spoke to Air Canada by phone and was assured that his wife would not experience the same nightmares when she got on board.
“He said it should be fine and in fact he had changed his seats and everything,” he said. “But when it came time for her to come home, it was the same deal – she was stuck there, we had to take her to a hotel, we couldn’t reach them and they didn’t respond. So I had to bring her home. Had to buy a ticket for it.”
When they contacted Air Canada again, “their reply was basically that they are not financially responsible,” he said. “They offered to cover the three nights I spent in a hotel and gave us coupons to fly with them again, but it covered 10 percent of what we lost.”
Air Canada said in mid-June that it was still looking into the issue, but offered no explanation as to why the couple’s return tickets were not honored or fully reimbursed.
“Our customer relations team is reviewing this file and we will contact the customer directly,” Peter Jackson said in response to questions from The Star.
Since then, Knutson said the airline has sweetened its original offer and is now willing to offer the couple an e-coupon that “closes to the amount they lost.”
Although it overcomes the initial reaction, it still “doesn’t help much,” he said. “Coupons don’t pay the bills.”
He said the airline claimed a lack of responsibility on the basis of the mechanical issue that threw the itinerary in the first place.
“They said they had to fix something on the engine,” he said. “I think it’s great that they want to be safe and we were very smart. I understand that the plane broke down and we’ll have to take different routes to get there. But after going home you guys have to take another step.” Can’t leave the country.”
They seem to have dropped the ball by not informing other airlines that Air Canada was re-routed and updating their itineraries.
“We went to get on our scheduled flights, but I understand they said, because your itinerary has changed and you haven’t told anyone, you come in as a no-show – everything is out of order. goes and they assume you didn’t get to Manila, they think you’re still back somewhere else,” he said. “So it cancels your itinerary and they send it to other people.” Sell what I think.”
What makes Knutson worse than the financial crunch or the headache of arranging a new way home is that the paying customer can be so negligently cast in a situation like this.
“As for me, I think you are legally obliged to protect your passengers,” he said. “How can you leave people abroad who have no means of going home? What if I didn’t have money? Heaven forbid this is a young woman with two children trying to bring their family home. It could be disastrous.”
He said that he was very concerned about his wife reaching home safely and hence sought assurance from the airline that at least her ticket would be recognised.
“It’s bad enough that I got stuck there, but even after alerting them, they’re like, well, good luck, it should be okay,” he said. “I didn’t know a company could drop you. I thought you’d call them and they’d say, ‘Okay, we got you another flight.’ But it was terrible.”
All this confusion and tension came on the heels of a funeral, making it much harder to bear.
“The biggest thing for me is that you’re already dealing with things,” he said. “And after all of that, the death in the family, and all this harshness afterward, they just give you a coupon.”