‘Basically living at the airport’: Cancelled flights strand B.C. woman in Toronto for 5 days

Click to play video: 'Okanagan woman stranded at airport for five days, loses $10K'
Okanagan woman stranded at airport for five days, loses $10K
WATCH: An Okanagan woman is back after what she calls a 'travel nightmare.' After a flight from Kelowna, she was stuck at the Toronto international airport for five days – Jul 5, 2022

Carla Leinweber tearfully calls it “the most humiliating, degrading and nightmarish airport/airline treatment” she’s had in her life.

On June 14, Leinweber boarded her Air Canada flight from Kelowna, B.C., to Montreal.

She was then supposed to fly to Deer Lake, N.L., but the airline recommended she go to Toronto Pearson Airport as she had a higher chance of making her connecting flight to Deer Lake.

But that flight got cancelled — not just that night, but for the following two days as well.

She and other passengers were stuck at Pearson airport while dealing with customer service.

“I was basically in a lockdown/hostage position with Air Canada. You’re basically living at the airport,” Leinweber said.

“After the third night, one woman said maybe we need to call RCMP and say we’re stranded.”

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She told Global News she spent the days searching for her luggage and trying to book her next flight. She spent two nights in a hotel and the rest sleeping on the airport floor.

On Friday morning, she decided to book a flight home through WestJet instead of waiting for a flight to finally take her to Newfoundland.

But then the long, frustrating days took a toll on her.

“As I’m waiting in check-in at WestJet counter in Toronto airport, I actually collapsed. I had my cart and my luggage, backpack, cane and purse go flying,” she said.

She said other passengers and WestJet staff helped picked her up and put her into a wheelchair. Her leg would later be covered in bruises.

Click to play video: 'Canadian airlines, airports top global list of delays'
Canadian airlines, airports top global list of delays
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To curb the number of delayed and cancelled flights, Air Canada has adjusted its schedule.

It has got down to an average of 154 flights per day in July and August, mostly cutting flights to and from Toronto and Montreal.

“The operating environment globally has changed from prior to the pandemic, notably the well-documented issues such as security and customs lines, aircraft being held at gates unable to unload passengers at airports, airport baggage systems issues and limitations on the number of flights imposed by air traffic control in both Canada and the U.S. that force airlines to make last-minute cancellations,” the airline said in a statement to Global News.

Customers are notified automatically if their flight gets cancelled, the statement said, and staff will either rebook them right away if possible or continue to search for other flights.

“Customers can also request a refund to original form of payment at any time and where compensation is due Air Canada will abide by its [Air Passenger Protection Regulations] obligations.”
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Click to play video: 'Travel Tips: Ongoing delays impacting Canadian travelers'
Travel Tips: Ongoing delays impacting Canadian travelers

Not only was the trip emotionally and physically draining, but Leinweber said she also lost over $10,000 in return flights, accommodations and the cancellation of her vacation.

She said she was lucky her trip was only a vacation, as those around her had more concerning reasons to be travelling.

“One person was going home because it was her brother’s funeral. A mother and daughter — she hadn’t seen her elderly parents [since] before COVID-19 and one of them had health issues. They ended up not visiting their family.”

Even as an avid traveller, Leinweber doesn’t recommend anyone go on a flight in the near future. She said she’s been in touch with a lawyer and is looking for full monetary reimbursement.

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“Don’t fly. Just don’t fly. The most horrendous experience I have ever, ever gone through in an airport or with an airline.”

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