Ontario woman says Air Canada allowed her child to fly internationally unsupervised
TORONTO -- An Ontario woman says Air Canada allowed her 11-year-old son to board an international flight without supervision and fly home from Mexico City alone.
Toronto woman Monica Perez says her son, Sebastian, flew to Mexico City in June to visit his aunt for summer holidays.
"My son went on vacation, going and returning on his own," Perez told CTV News Toronto on Sunday. "I paid $200 to have a guardian with him."
According to Air Canada's website, it is mandatory for children between the ages of eight and 11, who are travelling alone, to fly with the airline’s unaccompanied minor service.
An Air Canada agent will escort the child to the gate and assist with boarding. The child is usually seated in the last three rows, so they are close to the cabin crew.
Sebastian was originally scheduled to fly home on Aug. 20, but Perez said she used Air Canada’s free change option to move his flight to September 17.
She says she was then contacted by Air Canada and told Sebastian's flight had been moved up to Sept. 14 due to a schedule change at the airline.
On Sept. 14, Perez said Sebastian's aunt drove him to the airport in Mexico City to fly back to Toronto.
"My sister checked him in and she was told by Air Canada they don’t have a guardian for him," Perez said. "They said I didn’t pay the fee, but of course I paid the fee. I have the receipt."
Perez, who was in Toronto, said she was told over the phone by the agent in Mexico City to call the Air Canada support line.
"I was on hold forever," Perez said.
While waiting on the support line, Perez said the agent at the check-in counter told her sister that if Sebastian didn’t board the flight he would forfeit his ticket.
They said they were also told it could be days before there was room on the next available flight.
"My sister felt she didn’t have any choice but to let him go on his own," Perez said.
Perez said another family, who was also flying back to Toronto on the same flight, agreed to step in and help Sebastian get through security and to his gate.
"It's the middle of the night and he’s at the busiest airport in Mexico," Perez said.
'HE WAS FEELING LOST'
Perez said her son got on the plane and was seated in the middle of the nearly 300-seat plane, not near the cabin crew.
She said he also could no longer see the family who helped him board the plane.
"He was feeling lost," she said. "I didn't sleep all night thinking about it."
Perez said by the time she connected with Air Canada's support line, Sebastian was already on the plane.
She said she was told by Air Canada that when the schedule change occurred on Sebastian’s booking "they forgot to attach the unaccompanied minor fee to the new flight."
When the flight landed in Toronto, Perez said Sebastian get off the plane and made his way to customs.
"He did customs on his own," she said. "They asked him lots of questions. They asked him how much money he has. He said he told them a couple of thousands dollars because he was thinking about his Xbox, clothes, iPad, and toys."
Perez, who went to Toronto Pearson to pick up her son, said he was brought out to the arrivals area by an Air Canada agent.
Perez said she believes the customs agent must have notified Air Canada about Sebastian being alone.
"The lady came and the first thing she said is 'I'm not supposed to be with him because you didn't pay,'" she said. "I lost it."
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, a spokesperson for Air Canada said they are concerned to hear about the situation.
"Air Canada is continuing to review what happened as this passenger should have travelled under unaccompanied minor service," the spokesperson said.
"Our customer relations team will be in direct contact with the family in the coming days."
But Perez says she has been in contact with Air Canada’s customer relations team multiple times since the incident occurred.
E-mails to Perez, viewed by CTV News Toronto, show Air Canada offered her a $200 voucher for future travel.
"Respectfully, we consider this matter closed," the e-mail from Air Canada on Sept. 17 says. "Continuing to exchange emails will not change our position on providing a full refund."
Perez said she doesn't feel Air Canada is taking the situation seriously.
"Air Canada doesn't understand my frustration," she said. "To them it was a tiny little mistake but it was big to us."
"I don't want any credit, just a refund. I don't want to fly with Air Canada anymore. I don't care if I have to take three connecting flight with another airline. I just want my money back."