A Toronto woman flying on Air Canada with her four-year-old son was booted with her boy after she asked questions about why she couldn’t be seated beside him.
Heather Morton was flying business class on Air Canada between Frankfurt and Toronto on April 21. Typically, she flies economy class, she said, but travelled in the more expensive fare class so her son could enjoy the experience.
Mom and son were ticketed and assigned to sit in adjacent seats in the seventh row of the forward cabin.
“Nothing indicated that there was a problem with him sitting beside me,” Morton told Global News. Air Canada’s reservation system permitted side-by-side seating.
But more than 90 minutes prior to the flight, she says she was told the seating arrangement couldn’t be accommodated. She says Air Canada customer service staff said she would have to sit behind her son, for safety reasons.
She asked Air Canada representatives to produce the policy to prove such a rule existed. She says she was told they could not do so.
Aboard the Boeing 787, Morton said she asked staff on the aircraft again to explain the policy. She says if she couldn’t see her son in the large, separate seat pod in front of her, it would be difficult to help him eat, get to the bathroom, or assist him during the flight.
She says she was respectful and did not raise her voice as she asked questions. Air Canada did not claim she was rude or disruptive.
However, after Morton and her son were seated, she says the captain emerged from the flight deck and was adamant.
“The captain said, ‘You’re going to have to get off the plane,’” Morton said, explaining that her encounter with the captain took about 15 seconds.
She says she was told by another flight crew member as they were leaving the aircraft that “you don’t have the right to question policy.”
Morton maintains she didn’t refuse any order from the flight crew, only that she kept asking to see the policy.
Global News contacted Air Canada and was told that it is a policy that children are seated ahead of their parents in the business-class section.
“Our rules require a child travelling in a business-class pod to sit in front of the parent or guardian for safety reasons, in particular, to apply an oxygen mask properly,” said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick.
“As the customer refused to accept this requirement after repeated explanations, we were unfortunately unable to transport her and her child for safety reasons,” he added.
However, consumer advocacy group Air Passenger Rights reviewed Air Canada’s domestic tariff rules and pointed to guidelines on the transportation of passengers under the age of 18.
“Children under age eight must be accompanied by an adult age 16 or older when travelling,” the policy on Air Canada’s website read.
“The accompanying adult must occupy a seat in the same cabin and be seated adjacent to the young child.”
After leaving the plane, Morton said she and her son were not offered seats on the next flight or any flight.
So, she purchased two Air Canada tickets for about €3000, on a flight that left 14 hours later.
She adhered to the Air Canada policy and sat behind her son. She says she had to get up to assist him “about 15 times” given the awkward arrangement.
Morton said had she been told of the seating requirement, she would have purchased less expensive economy-class tickets for the trip so she could sit beside him.
“I want my money back,” for the additional tickets, Morton said.
Air Canada said it would discuss that request directly with Morton.