Emma Fenton, 15, was heading from her home in Vernon, B.C. to visit her dad and stepmom in Fort St. John for spring break but a confusing travel itinerary and delays left her stranded alone in Calgary.
Because of a flight delay on March 24 — her Air Canada flight out of Kelowna — the agents got Emma to fly on through to Calgary and re-booked her on a Westjet flight to Fort St. John. But no actual ticket was issued, only a piece of paper which, when she got to Calgary, wasn’t enough to get her on the plane.
She was directed to go out past security and see a ticketing agent to sort it out.
But it was in the middle of the night — 1:30 a.m. — and the ticket booths at both airlines were deserted and she was stuck.
“I didn’t sleep. I was trying to find a place to sit and try to sleep,” Emma said.
“They don’t turn off the lights and there’s other people around. I was frustrated.”
Her stepmom, Christy Jordan-Fenton, was waiting in Fort St. John and her mom, Adrienne Harper, was helpless in Vernon. Both were calling the airlines and said they weren’t getting any answers.
“That feeling when you feel vulnerable and nobody wants to help you,” Jordan-Fenton said.
“She hadn’t slept in 24 hours she has anxiety and she was in Calgary, out of province, and we couldn’t even drive through the night and go pick her up. We were way too far away.”
“What bothered me is there was nobody with authority to make sure nothing untoward happened to her,” Harper said. “That’s all I was looking for: a human connection. Yes, she’s a minor and she’s flying unaccompanied, but there’s a certain amount of social responsibility and compassion recognizing this is a 15-year-old.”
Calgary Airport Authority officials said they’re looking into this situation but say there’s no indication Emma approached anyone looking for help and that assistance is available 24-hours a day and seven days a week.
Air Canada responded to Global News in a statement.
“There were actually four customers, including the young woman, who were destined to Fort St. John, and all were re-routed with Westjet via Calgary,” Peter Fitzpatrick, with Air Canada, said.
“The other three customers boarded the flight in Calgary without issue and we do not have information as to why this passenger, regrettably, did not.”
After a robust investigation, Westjet called it “an unfortunate series of events.”
“We will most certainly use this situation as learning for our teams, as in no case, regardless of the carrier responsible, would we be comfortable with a 15-year-old being left alone overnight in an airport.
“We sincerely apologize for not going above and beyond and letting her and her family down,” said Morgan Bell, Westjet media and public relations advisor.
Emma’s stepmom said their policies should be reviewed.
“Even if Emma wasn’t an unaccompanied minor, it’s still pretty abhorrent behavior towards anybody flying,” Jordan-Fenton said.
Once the ticket agents arrived for their morning shift, they got Emma on a flight to Grande Prairie. Her stepmom drove two-and-a-half hours to pick her up. They had to make a quick pit stop at the Fort St. John airport because her luggage did make it on the flight.