A Toronto woman, who was booted from an Air Canada flight when travelling with her four-year-old son after asking questions about seating, has received a $4,824 refund.
As Global News reported in April, Heather Morton was flying business class on Lufthansa flight LH6780, operated by Air Canada, between Frankfurt and Toronto on April 21. She said she typically flies economy class, 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 previously told Global News.
Air Canada’s reservation system permitted side-by-side seating. But more than 90 minutes prior to the flight, she said she was told the seating arrangement couldn’t be accommodated.
Morton said Air Canada customer service staff said she would have to sit behind her son for safety reasons. She said she asked Air Canada representatives to produce the policy to prove such a rule existed. Morton said 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 said 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 said 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 said the captain emerged from the flight deck and was adamant.
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“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 said 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 maintained 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,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick previously said.
“As the customer refused to accept this requirement after repeated explanations, we were unfortunately unable to transport her and her child for safety reasons.”
However, consumer advocacy group Air Passenger Rights reviewed Air Canada’s international 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 the Global News report in April, Fitzpatrick said Air Canada would “deal directly with the customer if she has concerns and we invite her to contact our customer relations.”
About eight weeks after going back and forth, Morton said she received compensation from both Air Canada and Lufthansa — but it wasn’t easy.
“Had it not been for my numerous emails to Air Canada and to the airline, I am confident to say I might not have recovered most of my fees,” she said.