Flying across Canada should be an easy experience for anyone. But, for one local woman, it was a complete nightmare.
Michele Jarvis, of Iron Bridge, had a less-than-ideal experience with Air Canada this past summer when she was scheduled to fly to Kelowna, B.C. to visit her parents in August.
Jarvis, who has physical handicaps and issues with her mental health, had arranged for extra help at each airport on her way there and back, as she sometimes requires the use of a wheelchair. After a two-hour drive to the Sault Ste. Marie Airport, and an approx. 90-minute flight to Toronto, Jarvis found out (by overhearing another passenger on the same flight), after arriving on time for both flights, that her flight to Kelowna had been postponed due to the forest fires out West.
The customer rep pushing her then took Jarvis back to the Air Canada Customer Service desk, where she was informed at the smoke from the fires in BC “made it impossible for the planes to land” and they changed her flight to leave Toronto that night, arriving in Edmonton later that same night, at which point she would then have to wait for a connecting flight at 8:10, if at that point they were able to land in Kelowna. At that time, she wasn’t offered accommodations because, as she was told by Air Canada employees, the forest fires were “an act of God.”
Since she had over four hours to wait for her flight to Edmonton, she asked the Air Canada customer representative to take her outside, where she called her parents to inform them of the flight changes so they knew what time to pick her up at. At that time, her parents told her that all flights to Kelowna were cancelled that day and they weren’t expecting any flights to land there for at least three days.
“Why wasn’t I told before I left Sault Ste Marie?” Jarvis wrote in an email to Air Canada. “Why redirect me to Edmonton to sit for 3 days (where I didn’t know anyone) and when my return flight was set for Friday night the 24th?????”
After hours of being directed back and forth to different (any many times wrong) Customer Service desks and security gates, Jarvis was exhausted, stressed and on the brink of a panic attack. When she finally got to the right lineup, she waited another 45 minutes before she was able to speak to a Customer Service rep. about her situation. He confirmed that all flights to Kelowna were cancelled and they weren’t expecting any flights for at least three days. At this point, Jarvis decided it wasn’t worth going, as she’d be there for one day before returning home. The service rep found her a flight back to Sault Ste. Marie with a midnight arrival that night, assuring her that there was plenty of time for her baggage, which contained her medicinal marijuana and medications, to be on the same flight.
Her flight back to the Sault was delayed, causing her to return “well after midnight.”
After her son picked her and her luggage up and drove the two-hour commute home, Jarvis realized she had the wrong bags when she went to get her medication the next morning.
She immediately called Air Canada, and was on the phone with them for over an hour. She was advised to put a claim in for the luggage she had. She then asked for a number for the Sault Ste. Marie terminal so she could see if her bag was there before making another two-hour trip back to the airport. She was told there was no phone at the terminal and then, that he would call and find out for her.
“Hard to do if there was no phone there eh????” she wrote in her email to the airline company.
After the rep received no response from the terminal, Jarvis asked to speak to an Air Canada supervisor and was told there wasn’t one available. She left her name and both home and cellphone numbers with the rep, and to this day hasn’t heard back from anyone.
After this, Jarvis decided to make the drive into Sault Ste. Marie to return the wrong luggage. Upon arrival, she was told where the “left” luggage was and checked for hers, but it wasn’t to be found.
“Apparently my luggage never made it with me, even though the customer service rep in Toronto assured me that there was enough time before my flight back to S.S. Marie for them to get my luggage and have it sent with me!”
Finally a young lady came out to assist Jarvis.
“She was the nicest person I met during this whole fiasco!”
She tried to reach the person that owned the luggage Jarvis had to see if they had taken hers. She also set up a claim for Jarvis’ luggage and had her fill out on a piece of blank paper the contents of her luggage as best as she could remember. She also advised Jarvis that they had been in the office all morning and they did not receive a call from Air Canada customer service.
Finally there was nothing left for her to do so she went to go do some things in town while she waited. She was assured that she would be phoned as soon as the airport attendant heard anything.
A little while later, Jarvis received a call that the person whose luggage she had didn’t have hers, but a flight was coming in from Toronto and it might be on there.
“My concern regarding getting my bag asap was that all of my medications were in it. We had a long talk about what to pack and what to carry with me. I had no idea that I was not supposed to put my laptop and e-reader into my checked baggage, which poses the question, why didn’t the security guy tell me when he put it through the x-ray and I was still standing there? He just put it through and told me to have a nice day!”
After an hour of waiting, Jarvis decided to go home and was told her luggage would be delivered to her.
About an hour into her drive home, she was called and told her bag had arrived. She decided to turn around and go get it.
When she picked it up, it was “drenched.”
“I opened the bag (of course no one was around again) and discovered that everything in it was wet, and that it very obviously had been “gone” through,” she said in an email.
After a quick check, she discovered that her carton of cigarettes and all of her medical marijuana was gone.
“I asked the security guy for help, advised him that stuff was missing and asked for help out to my car – to which he told me no one was around and he couldn’t as he was the only one there. I also asked the airport security guy for help and he said he had a bad back! I also advised him that stuff was missing out of my bag and asked him for a parking exit ticket and he provided me with one so I didn’t have to pay for the parking. I asked about any ground crew that could maybe help me and the airline security guy said “they all have jobs to do; you’ll have to do it yourself”. He gave me no direction as to the missing stuff from my bag and no help to get my bag to my car. By this time it was after 5pm and I had left home at 10am. I was exhausted and with my disability I had no way of getting my bag into my car. I finally saw a lady with a vest on and asked her if she could help me, I was in tears and she said of course she would help me out, which she did.”
After this, she got in her car and went home, where she had to go straight to bed due to the stress of the whole ordeal. Her husband opened her bag and discovered that everything in it was soaked – there was water in the bottom of the bag – and he started taking inventory of everything that was missing:
- 1 carton of cigarettes
- 1 bottle of medical marijuana oil
- 1 container of medical marijuana loose leaf
- All of the medical marijuana accessories (grinder, dosage syringe, pipe)
- All of her prescription medication
Her laptop and Kobo reader were wet, and he left them open to dry overnight. However, they are both damaged due to the moisture and now useless.
“How I will ever get all of my information back is beyond me at this point. I have been told to take them to Staples to see if they can get the information off of the hard drive and the books I purchased on the Kobo, but I’ve also been told that that can be costly not to mention another 2 hour trip back to S.S. Marie, one way!”
“I am exhausted, emotionally drained and had to spend the entire day Tuesday and Wednesday, and part of Thursday in bed. This was by far the worst experience I have ever had with an airline. Air Canada knew Sunday before I even left for Toronto for my connecting flight that no flights were going into Kelowna and could have saved me a lot of grief and emotional upset, not to mention the physical strain of having to push myself around the enormous airport in Toronto had they just told me in Sault Ste Marie and I would have just turned around and went back home and planned this trip for another time.”
Since reaching out to Air Canada for compensation, Jarvis has been offered a $300 travel voucher to be used within a year with Air Canada, which she says is not enough compensation for this ordeal.
Air Canada has not reimbursed Jarvis’ mother for her portion of the flights, despite stating otherwise, and she herself is out a lot of money with all of the stuff that’s missing, as well as being without medication until she could afford to replace it, and well over $100 for gas.
“I am on a disability pension and have very little money, hence the reason my mother was paying for my trip out to visit with her.”
SaultOnline reached out to Air Canada, who sent this statement:
“We have been in touch with the customer to apologize for the difficulties she encountered and we have offered a goodwill gesture. We continue to correspond with her in order to resolve some remaining concerns.”
Jarvis said, as of the date of this publication, that Air Canada has not re-reached out to her with a solution.