A Saskatchewan woman wants Air Canada to pay better attention to its young passengers after a cancelled flight home landed her 14-year-old in a foreign hotel with strangers.
Csilla Vajda said her daughter, Timea, spent the summer with her grandparents in Satu Mare, Romania.
Vajda had travelled there with the girl, who was booked to fly home to Saskatoon on her own Aug. 20.
The teen had no problems taking a bus into neighbouring Hungary, said her mother, and arrived in time to catch her plane at the Budapest airport. After mechanical trouble and a six-hour delay, the flight was cancelled.
Passengers were put up at a hotel, but it didn’t have enough rooms for everyone. People were told they’d have to share, Vajda said.
A nice couple, who had paid for a cab to the hotel and taken Timea with them, also volunteered to share a room with her, her mother said. They then had to fight to make sure the girl got her own bed.
Staff “wanted to add one more person to the room but apparently this couple said, ‘You can’t do this. Like, no way,”’ said Vajda.
Because of the time difference, the mother said she didn’t learn about the flight cancellation until she woke up in the morning.
“I called Air Canada a million times,” she said Wednesday. “They had no clue where is my daughter.”
Timea later sent her a text message informing her mother that she was fine and staying at a hotel and was about to catch another flight.
When she arrived in Saskatoon several hours later, there were tears. The teen told her parents she never wanted to travel without them again.
“The whole thing is not OK,” said Vajda, upset at the possibility that her daughter might have ended up in a hotel room with only men.
She added the airline also gave her daughter a food voucher that allowed to her to buy one sandwich at the airport but nothing else. The girl was carrying only Canadian money, no Hungarian currency.
Air Canada has offered a discount on a future flight, said Vajda, but she doesn’t care about it.
“I hope this never happens with any other kids travelling alone.”
Vajda complained in an email to Air Canada and received a phone call from the company Wednesday.
“They said, ‘You know she’s travelling alone and you’re supposed to prepare her for all kinds of circumstances like this.’ I’m like, ‘Uh, pardon me? No.”’
Peter Fitzpatrick with Air Canada said in an emailed statement that the airline is looking into what happened but that Vajda had not enrolled the girl as an unaccompanied minor, “which would have allowed us to better supervise her journey.”
The paid service, which is mandatory for children ages eight to 11 years and optional for those 12 to 17, provides agent escorts to and from flights.
“Our agents in Budapest made efforts to accommodate the child and we are still investigating the full sequence of events,” said Fitzpatrick.
(With files from CJWW)