My husband Brian and I were recently going on a family vacation to Phoenix with our fifteen month-old triplets. This was to be our first trip with them, and we were travelling with my father, my sister, her two year-old, her six month-old, their nanny, and our live-in caregiver Vivian. Our direct flight to Phoenix left at 8:05 a.m. on May 19th, and understandably, given the large number of people and infants in our party, we wanted to be on time. My husband and I woke our children at 5:00 a.m. and got a ride to the airport from his parents. We got to the check-in line around 5:30 that morning. We were separated from my father and sister by one of the Air Canada employees and directed to a different check-in line under the pretense that the new line would be “faster”. We then proceeded to wait for an hour and a half before someone started calling for people whose flights were leaving 8:30 or earlier. I called out that we were leaving at 8:00 and we were pulled through to get to the next available check-in clerk. Another Air Canada employee came to me and stated that I had too many bags and strollers to wait where I was standing and had to wait for a particular clerk at the farthest end of the row. I complied and went where I was directed. The woman we ended up dealing with was having severe computer troubles and ended up having to restart her computer with each bag we checked in. None of our bags were over the weight limit, all were properly packed. Furthermore, two of our children were not in the system, even though we had confirmation of their being booked on the flight. Getting this sorted out took nearly a half hour.
After check-in, we were rushed through to customs, where an employee was kind enough to let us through the line for people with NEXUS and special needs. She took pity on us and our two strollers and copious amounts of baggage. We got to the customs official two people behind my father and sister. I watched as they went through to security and baggage. We then went to the customs official who let our live-in through and stopped me as I had three bottles of milk for my infant triplets. I was taken to a separate room where, for a total of two minutes, I was asked what was in the bottles. As we were leaving the room, and entered the security area, an Air Canada employee came up to us and told us we were no longer permitted to drop off our bags and board the flight. I was understandably upset. I asked if there was anything to do, and she informed me there was not. Furthermore, because of my short detour into the customs area, it was no longer Air Canada’s fault that we were late. I was shocked. Since when was two and a half hours early for a flight “late”? We asked to call up to the gate to my father and even that was a hassle for her. My husband spoke to my father, and the employees on the flight were waiting for us. They had not been informed that we were no longer allowed to fly. Without apology, or any modicum of politeness on her part, the Air Canada employee unceremoniously ripped the luggage tags off our bags and escorted us back out into the terminal. Brian’s parents had our van. We had no way of getting home, and we were supposed to meet my relatives in Phoenix that afternoon. I was livid. Brian went off to find someone to speak to, and was told by yet another Air Canada employee that we were late due to “secondary circumstances”, not the airline’s fault. He stated that this was not the case. We were late due to impossibly long check-in lines and computer trouble. The employee offered to take him to the ticketing desk where we would be placed on a different flight. One catch: Our 8:05 flight was the only direct flight to Phoenix that day. No one wanted to wake up three babies at 5:00 a.m. a second time. Now we would have to fly twice in one day.
Brian went to the ticketing desk, where the woman he dealt with was rude and did not want to deal with him. She did not know why he was there, and sent him to the check-in desk. The check-in desk could not help him, as they did not have the means to book three adults and three infants on any flight. As Vivian and I proceeded to feed our now hungry babies in the middle of the terminal, Brian was shuffled from desk to desk by a bunch of upset employees who were not communicating with each other. Finally, he returned and I was told that we would be on the 12:40 flight to LAX, followed by a two and a half hour stop-over and a flight to Phoenix from there. We would be spending eighteen hours in airports that day, with triplets who had never flown before. We checked in again, and for our trouble, were given $10.00 a person in food vouchers, only good on the first plane, and in the Air Canada lounge. One thing you need to know: Neither of these locations are conducive to providing nutritious meals for infants. Furthermore, a mother will bring food for her kids, however, she will only bring food for what is needed, NOT anticipating a marathon day of plane hopping and sitting around airports for eighteen hours.
Needless to say, that day was awful, exhausting, frustrating, and filled with crying on my kids’ part. The second flight did not have any changing facilities, and flight attendants do not take kindly to your changing a smelly, full diaper on the seat in full view of other passengers. Also, a child does not take kindly to being forced to have his diaper changed while standing on top of a toilet because his mother is not allowed to change it normally in her seat. I wanted very much for our first trip aboard a plane to be easy, stress-free, and fun for our children. Instead, they were forced to spend a full day in a strange environment, watching their parents cry, and get yelled at. They had barely any food for both lunch and dinner. We as parents, felt useless at providing for them, as there was nothing to provide. What good are food vouchers, when they can only buy alcoholic beverages, Pringles, and sandwiches covered in strange sauces infants will not eat?
We finally landed at LAX and then had to walk outdoors past a bustewd sewage pipe to get to our terminal to catch our second flight to Phoenix. As we were going through security for the second time that day, they took the mini wines I had bought with my rediculous vouchers and informed me they needed to pat me down. I complied, insisting on standing out in the open, rather then go into their little pat down room. When they put their swabs from my clothes through their machine, it dinged that I was covered in hazardous material. Great. After five hours of being drooled on, having cereal bars mashed into my clothes, drinks and baby tylenol spilled on me. I can not say that this was a surprise. Due to this, I was then taken into the separate room, and given a more thorough pat down, where a stranger put her hands up my shirt and down my pants. By the time we got through, we barely made our second boarding, and as our second flight was Air Canada's sister air line, United, we had no voucher power for airline food. However, the pilot was kind enough to find us milk so our babies we were able to give them their bottles at least. Dinner for them was made up of potato chips and carrot sticks. Not the best choices there, but it was better then airport sushi that I found in the terminal.
This trip found Air Canada’s customer service severely lacking. As a long-time customer, I was most severely disappointed. I have never been treated so rudely. At one point, while I stood crying in frustration, one of the airline's employees told me to stop. What right did she have to do that? I find myself loathe to use your airline again. Is this how they are trained to treat people? THEY made us miss our flight. They, at first, tried to put the blame on others so they would not have to do anything about it. And then they treat us miserably.
Now, I will be sending this story to the airline in an angry letter, with additions from Brian. He will be adding the details about what happened at the desks while Vivian and I were dealing with feeding the babies. Also, to add to the ludicrous nature of all this, he was told the second time that we checked in that on the holiday weekend, (which was when we were flying) the airline chose to move all the flights to first thing in the morning so that travelers would have the entire day at their destination. Also, a lot of the staff were given the day off. In short, less workers + more congestion= airline stupidity. I want compensation. And by that, I mean a little bit more then $10.00 worth of crappy airline food. This was supposed to be a great experience for us and our children. It was our first vacation together as a family. And rather than have a nice relaxing airport experience, we spent over eighteen hours in and out of airports, on and off of planes, hungry, tired, stinky, and angry. I still am over this. I can't get my day back, but I could at least get a refund and an apology. I could at least have that vindication. Right?