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'Speechless': Vancouver couple stranded after Air Canada cancels flight

"Never have I been treated so poorly by a company in my life."
A Vancouver, B.C. man says he was stranded after Air Canada cancelled his flight to Toronto in July 2022 to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

A Vancouver man says he was stranded on the other side of the country after Air Canada cancelled and rebooked his flights. 

"Never have I been treated so poorly by a company in my life. Speechless."

Braden McMillan's wife surprised him with a trip to Washington, DC to celebrate his 30th birthday on July 4. The pair planned to stay in an Airbnb, partake in the Fourth of July festivities, and spend the rest of the week exploring. 

"I'm a big politics buff," he told Vancouver Is Awesome

The couple were originally booked on a July 2 flight with one layover at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport on route to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. They ended up losing a day of their trip, however, after Air Canada cancelled their flight and rebooked them on a July 3 departure, McMillan explained.

"Nothing we could do so kept it as is since it was an early morning 8 a.m. flight and only 6.5 [hours]. But still cut [the] trip short [one] day to start off."

At 5 a.m. on July 3, only hours before their new departure time, the couple was notified of a three-hour delay. And then an hour later at 6 a.m., they were informed their flight had been changed and they were headed to Montreal instead of Toronto before continuing to Washington, DC.

But once they arrived in Montreal, they were told their flight to Washington, DC was cancelled. To make matters worse, the automatic system had rebooked them for a flight two days later on Tuesday afternoon.

"We received no helpful info other than an automated email saying we had a 44 [hour] layover... And that's when the problems got so much worse."

The couple waited at a customer service desk for three hours "which only had [one] agent working and over 100 people in line," before the employee went off shift and everyone was "left stranded," the exasperated traveller explained.

"No [Air Canada] reps anywhere to be found, no hotel vouchers, no info on rebooking, no food vouchers, absolutely nothing. One agent literally walked away from a group of people asking for help and said she wasn't on shift anymore and couldn't help. They just said 'call Air Canada' over and over but the phone line said there were too many people on hold and to try again later."

Couple had to rebook flight on another airline, pay for their own hotel room

The couple were finally en route to Washington, DC on Monday for McMillan's birthday but it involved significant effort on their behalf; they also had to pay for their own hotel room in Montreal. 

"[I have spent] hours to get a new flight earlier than Tuesday to get us to DC today. So today we made our way to Boston and hopefully will soon be heading to DC thanks to United Airlines."

McMillan says the experience left the couple "feeling helpless and very disappointed" about a trip they booked months in advance.

"I knew it was going to be busy and complicated but wrongly assumed that if something did go wrong, Air Canada would at least try to make things right. Unfortunately, I have seen nothing that would indicate that Air Canada has things under control and the worst part is they don't seem to care. And it's not just the customers that are suffering, their few staff look absolutely defeated and I feel for them because it's not their fault either. This was a massive planning failure by Air Canada and they need to be held accountable for causing such havoc in people's lives," he said. 

Air Canada told V.I.A. it couldn't comment on specific traveller cases but "fully appreciates the disappointment and inconvenience schedule changes cause customers and does its utmost to mitigate these regrettable situations."

Customers are notified automatically when flights are cancelled and Air Canada will rebook them immediately when possible. They may also request a refund at any time, the airline added. 

Canadian airlines and airports claimed top spots in flight delays over the July long weekend, notching more than nearly any other around the world.

Air Canada ranked No. 1 in delays on Saturday and Sunday as two-thirds of its flights — 717 trips in total — landed late, according to tracking service FlightAware. At 67 per cent on Sunday, it was more than 14 percentage points above the three carriers tied for second place, two of which are Air Canada-affiliated.

With files from the Canadian Press