Airline travel can be stressful enough and even more so with children, let alone if something goes wrong.
Now, one Saskatoon mother is speaking out against Air Canada after she said a trip to San Francisco, Calif., with her three-year-old daughter for therapy on Sept. 10 turned into a nightmare.
“We got out of the plane and typically when you gate-check a stroller, it’s waiting as soon as you exit and it wasn’t there.”
A few minutes later, Ellie Boyenko said she and her little girl Kinley were told the stroller was at the ticket counter.
“So we walked up there and I’ve got a 35-pound kid, our backpack, a diaper bag.”
It wasn’t there when they arrived and that’s when Boyenko said the runaround and endless eye-rolling from Air Canada staff began.
The pair was also told not to leave the ticket counter if they wanted help even though Kinley desperately needed to be changed after soiling her diaper prior to passengers getting off the plane.
“Or frankly just do their job, making a phone call and helping us out.”
Instead, Kinley who has cerebral palsy – a neurological disorder – was forced to sit in her own feces for 45 minutes before a bathroom break was allowed.
Upon returning to the ticket counter, the two were told the stroller was in the baggage area.
“I asked ‘how am I supposed to do this?’ Now it had been about 45 minutes of me holding all of our stuff and they said ‘you walk.’”
Both a request for the staff to bring the stroller to them or the assistance of a wheelchair went unfulfilled; a 25-minute walk later and the stroller was nowhere to be found.
With their luggage now in tow, Boyenko went in search of help and would leave the airport three hours later without a stroller and a promise from Air Canada to reimburse her for another.
“We landed just after four o’clock and it was about seven o’clock when we got out of the airport, had to go get our car, then drive an hour and a half,” Boyenko added.
What’s worse, Kinley’s therapy which was the entire reason for the trip got off to a rocky start because she was so exhausted.
Typically her mom said she’s asleep by six o’clock and she didn’t get to sleep until 10 o’clock after the whole ordeal.
“The entire day Monday was basically a bust.”
Each trip for Kinley’s therapy is approximately $10,000. Some of the money is generously donated to the family which is why, Boyenko said, they feel they have a responsibility to donors to always try to find the cheapest available option to get to their destination.
On Sept. 13, she filed a formal complaint with the airline and was offered 25 per cent off the base fare the next time they booked with Air Canada.
“I didn’t feel like they understood how they treated us, how they treated Kinley with no dignity.”
That’s when Boyenko said she took to social media to share their experience.
“I was bracing myself for those people saying just chill out, travelling with kids is hard, suck it up,” Boyenko remarked.
“I have not had one person say that.”
On Monday, Global News shared the entire post with Air Canada. Here is the statement the airline provided in response to the incident:
“We are very concerned to learn of this, as it does not reflect our standards on how we expect customers to be served or cared for, or how gate-checked strollers are to be handled.”
“We will be contacting our customer directly about this truly regrettable situation, and we are also looking into this matter further.”
As cameras rolled on Tuesday, Boyenko received the type of correspondence she was hoping for from the airline.
“An internal investigation has been initiated.”
Those findings will be provided to the family on Oct. 13.
“In the end, it has nothing to do with the stroller. It’s how we were treated.”