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Nova Scotia family angered by Air Canada’s treatment of teen travelling alone

The family of a 15-year-old boy who was bumped from an Air Canada flight and left to sleep alone overnight on the floor of Pearson airport while travelling solo is calling on the airline for a change of policy toward minors.

Hayden Levy was returning to Nova Scotia after a three-week visit with his father in Winnipeg when he and about 14 other passengers were bumped from their connector flight, he said. It was scheduled to depart for Halifax from Toronto at 8:50 p.m. on July 13.

A second flight, scheduled for around 11:30 p.m., saw Levy and others boarded onto a plane only to be shuffled off again due to a thunderstorm that cancelled the trip.

“I just lied (sic) out on the carpet . . . . I could see the planes through the windows,” Hayden said. “It wasn’t very comfortable. Every once in a while you’d hear a loud noise . . . like a floor-cleaning machine.”

In an emailed statement, an Air Canada spokesperson said the company “had no indication in the booking file that Hayden was a 15-year-old teenager travelling alone.”

The airline’s policy offers “special assistance” to solo travellers under 18, wrote Angela Mah. That includes arranging for a hotel room with a chaperone or, if a suite isn’t available, relying on “back-up plans involving staff who stay with the child.”

“However, we can only take the appropriate action if we are made aware of the individual’s circumstances. Our gate agent was only made aware he was a teenager travelling alone the following morning.”

Levy and his family disagree. “I was ready to go to Toronto and get my son and tear a strip off somebody,” his mother, Kim Hillier, said.

Levy’s stepmother was with him at the check-in desk in Winnipeg and “specifically told them he was 15 years old,” Hillier said. “It was notified when he checked in. What happened after that I don’t know.”

Levy said none of the delayed passengers was given hotel vouchers — no rooms were available, Air Canada said. All received a $ 10 airport food voucher a $ 400 discount on their next Air Canada flight.

“Ten dollars in Toronto International Airport doesn’t go far to (feed) a 15-year-old boy,” said Levy’s grandfather Brian Truelove.

When he woke up around 5 a.m., Levy realized he still wasn’t sure how he would be getting home. A family friend on his way back to the Maritimes, who had spotted the teen in the airport the night before, accompanied him to a customer service desk where they confirmed he was on standby.

Levy made it to Halifax around 1 p.m. July 14.

Mah said the airline’s customer relations team has been in contact directly with the family to apologize and offer compensation.

“Operational challenges sometimes create a lot of activity at the gate and in this instance we were taking care of a large number of customers who were affected,” Mah wrote.

Levy’s mother took the ferry to shore from the tiny island where they live in Mahone Bay, arriving in Halifax in the morning after several false starts.

Hillier said Levy’s stepmother had also written on his ticket that he was a minor, and that he should have received “better care” from the airline.

Air Canada stressed the minor’s age should be noted at the point of purchase, “as ticketing is electronic and rebooking is done automatically based on this information.”

Levy’s grandmother booked his flight, an annual summer trip out West, through a travel agent.

The airline offers service to unaccompanied minors service for passengers aged 8 to 17. The full treatment costs $ 100 each way and means unaccompanied children are escorted by airline staff. It is mandatory for anyone aged 8 to 11 and optional for passengers aged 12 to 17

Even if a passenger doesn’t want the service, he or she should note their age for special assistance in situations like those Levy encountered, Mah said.

The teen’s grandfather says there’s no excuse for overlooking his age during check-in, and called for a change in policy.

“Because he is a minor he should never have been bumped,” Truelove said.

“You’re old enough to be bumped off a flight you were booked on, but you’re not old enough to be booked in a hotel, so you end up sleeping on the floor.

He said his grandson, who enjoys fishing for mackerel and “four-wheeling,” isn’t the type to kick up a fuss. “He’s an honest kid and believes that most people are honest.”

Air Canada states on its website that more than 10,000 young travellers fly unaccompanied with the airline each year.

“And regardless of whether they’re travelling on a short flight, or are embarking on a longer journey, our unaccompanied minor service ensures that children travelling alone receive the best of care, and are escorted by our highly trained staff from the moment they arrive at airport check-in until they reach their destination.”


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