Vancouver couple stranded as travel chaos continues at Canadian airports

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It was supposed to be a fun week to celebrate Braden Macmillan’s birthday in Washington, D.C., but instead, he and his wife struggle to get out of the country.

Early on Sunday morning, the couple began their flight at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) with the goal of arriving in the US capital later in the day. The layover they were supposed to have in Toronto didn’t go well, so the two and everyone else on their flight were redirected to Montreal.

“I was never supposed to be in Quebec…When we arrived in Montreal, the flight to the capital was canceled, then we waited in the customer service line for more than three hours before they closed their doors for the night and left us all at the Montreal airport with nothing. We found a hotel tonight. past then we were able to wait for three hours last night/overnight and our flights were changed.So we have a flight to Boston today and then from Boston hopefully we can go to DC but our flight is already delayed again today so I don’t know if we We’re already getting out of Montreal.”

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What was supposed to be a multi-hour flight with Air Canada quickly became a nightmare.

“We knew it was going to be bad so we didn’t check the bag on purpose, but just completely disregarding anybody’s comfort or any basic human services – it’s shocking, frankly. We didn’t get hotel vouchers or food vouchers, we got nothing. You can’t. Even talking to a real person. Their shift is over, they come home, I tried calling 1-800 and he said their lines are too full, “Call back another time” and you go to the website and the website has been down for a while – all he does is to say: “Telephone…and frankly, we felt helpless,” MacMillan explained.

He says when they found out that their Sunday night flight was cancelled, they were directed to look for customer service, but that didn’t go well.

“I figured, there were 110 people in front of me and one person working at the customer service desk. I stayed that way for two hours, then two people came to work and then someone else left again, so it came back to one and then three hours later we were literally next in line and they said, ‘We finished a day. Go downstairs to the access section and he’ll help you there. So, everyone went down to the access section, and it was empty.’

“There was no staff and there were people actually sitting there, there were people crying, there were actually people finding places to sleep on the floor – it’s horrible to see that in a Montreal airport. I’ve been here before and it’s a mess, but it works, but people aren’t around They have no power, you want to collapse because you are stranded in your country but where am I going? The feeling of helplessness is unreal.”

Macmillan says the entire trip was only supposed to be six days, and that he won’t be taking any more vacation this year.

“We have an Airbnb, which is obviously going to be lost, which we booked months ago. The trip was supposed to take 6.5 hours, including a stop in Toronto and now we’re over 24 hours and I’m in Quebec. We’ll have very little time, if we end up Down there, and if we didn’t, Airbnb was way too expensive, and I doubt I’ll ever see that money again.”

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Macmillan plans to lobby for compensation from Air Canada when they return to Vancouver.

“I definitely want my money back. I want someone to pay for my hotel last night. I just wanted to have a nice birthday trip with my wife and now we’re here and it’s a shock that it’s that bad and they don’t seem to care. I would be pissed but the staff themselves were Very nice, but literally no one. I can’t get mad at the employees, I have to be mad at the company because they thought they could do it and obviously they can’t.”

He says there was a chance to leave Montreal on Sunday night, but they were turned down.

“They had flights from here last night in business class, but they wouldn’t give us business class seats because they said they wouldn’t upgrade to business class, even if your flight was cancelled. That was the top for me, because I know there are vacant seats leaving here. And they won’t put us in. It’s their policy, as if your flight is cancelled, they won’t put you in a business class seat unless you’re already in business class, although there are business class seats available for departure to Toronto last night because at least we could have gotten a little closer. But in that case, when there are sleeping people everywhere and bags piled up on the roof, they should put you in business class, if there is a seat available.”

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Macmillan admits that due to his tight schedule, if they don’t reach their destination soon, they’ll spend the rest of their vacation in Montreal or go home.

“I was close last night, to be honest, when they just left us and I had no idea what to do. I was almost like, ‘Can I get a flight to Vancouver?’ But also, there are no flights to Vancouver…You can either Trying to find your way – I think we’re looking forward to Tuesday to get out of here if we want to go somewhere else – [or] We can try to go to Boston today and work our way across the states to get where we wanted to go for at least a few days.”

After so many canceled and delayed flights, he’s worried about getting home in time. “Part of it, will I go back to work? That’s my fear now, even if we make it work, will I be able to go back to work for the weekend? I don’t know.”

His advice to anyone else who might be considering air travel right now – don’t do it. “Don’t go now, and if you have to go don’t take a checked bag, for it surely won’t make it. Even driving will be faster.”

What McMillan is going through isn’t new, it’s the latest in ongoing travel issues at major airports nationwide. With the relaxation of COVID-19 rules, there has been an increase in demand and staff shortages at multiple levels of airports and airlines making matters worse. It comes as recent changes announced by Air Canada and WestJet are adding to people’s frustration. Both companies say they have scaled back flights this summer.

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