When it comes to flying, no one likes delays or layovers.
Now, imagine this: spending 17 hours travelling from Saskatchewan to B.C., in what should have been a five-hour trip with one stop in Alberta.
And doing so in a kennel.
That’s the type of day a five-month-old puppy spent earlier this month after an Okanagan family bought her from a breeder in Saskatoon.
But instead of a simple flight of Saskatoon to Calgary to Kelowna, the woman says her puppy instead went Saskatoon to Calgary, back to Saskatoon, off to Calgary again, then, finally, to Kelowna.
In an interview with Global News, Rachel Straw of Vernon said she was ecstatic on Jan. 8 when they arrived at Kelowna International Airport, eager to see and pick up Clover.
Instead, Straw says she and her 11-year-old son were shocked to learn Clover wasn’t on the 10:30 a.m. arrival at YLW.
“We arranged to have her shipped to Kelowna, and she was only five months old, so we purposefully wanted the quickest and less-traumatic flight for her, which was five hours,” said Straw.
“When we got to the airport, I had both notifications that she’d been shipped and that she was on her way to Kelowna, so we were super excited. So we went to the cargo department, and a staff member said, ‘Sorry, the flight is slightly delayed.’”
Straw said that wasn’t a problem, so they waited. But one hour later, she said an employee came up to them and told them that Clover wasn’t on the flight.
“I said ‘Sorry, what do you mean, she’s not on the flight?’ I had two emails confirming that she’s been loaded,” said Straw.
Straw said she immediately demanded to see a WestJet supervisor regarding her lost puppy, but claims a supervisor wouldn’t meet with her.
Straw said she was told to go home, a 45-minute drive, and that WestJet would contact her.
“All the way home, I was in tears,” said Straw, adding she called WestJet three times and got “three different stories.”
Straw said she was told A) Clover was in Regina; B) she’s in Edmonton at a call centre; and C) she was never put on the flight in the first place.
“I was beside myself,” said Straw. “I kept chasing them and chasing them and then at 2 p.m., they said they were going to try and get her on the 3 p.m. flight from Saskatoon.”
Clover eventually arrived at Kelowna at 7 p.m.
Straw said the flight affected Clover, as she was scared and shaking, and that she wouldn’t eat any of her food or drink her water.
Straw said she asked WestJet if they fed Clover during that time span, but didn’t receive an answer. She said the puppy had a food bag attached to the top of the kennel, but it was untouched.
“I don’t know if she was taken out of the crate to stretch, I don’t know if she was given any water,” said Straw. “Certainly when we got her, the crate was sealed, and a cargo man in Kelowna had to cut it to unseal it.”
One week after the incident, Straw said she hadn’t heard anything from WestJet, so she called them and learned a file had been opened.
Straw said one employee apologized but couldn’t confirm what happened to Clover, then offered $20 for gas money, which she declined. WestJet also refunded her cargo ticket.
Straw said she asked for a written apology and a detailed explanation as to what happened to Clover, with WestJet sending an email on Wednesday detailing Clover’s route.
“I can’t believe that can happen,” said Straw, noting the crate was labelled with live animal on it. “I need WestJet to be accountable for their actions, because I don’t want this happening to somebody else, because it’s been very traumatic.”
In an email to Global News, WestJet said it “takes the transportation of animals very seriously and we recognize that in this case we did not meet the standards that we strive to deliver.”
The email said WestJet has connected with the family to offer sincere apologies for their experience, along with a fulsome explanation.
“WestJet safely and successfully transports thousands of animals per year through our cargo services,” said the email.
“Following a comprehensive internal investigation, it was determined that this was an isolated incident caused by human error prior to the aircraft being loaded in Calgary. Our teams ensured that the animal was kept warm, comfortable and treated with the utmost care throughout its journey.
“We sincerely apologize for this situation.”