Charlottetown: Air Canada has apologized to a Prince Edward Island family after the airline bumped a 10-year-old boy from a flight.
Brett Doyle booked four tickets from Charlottetown to Costa Rica for his family last August.
A day before their March break vacation, Doyle said he tried to check in his family online, but he could not select a seat for his son.
After hours on the phone with Air Canada, Doyle’s wife drove to the airport and was told the flight was oversold and their son had been bumped.
The family then drove to Moncton to catch a different Air Canada flight to meet the Costa Rica flight in Montreal, but when that flight was cancelled they were forced to drive to Halifax and stay overnight in a hotel.
Air Canada said in an email it has apologized to the Doyle family.
“We are currently following up to understand what went wrong and have apologized to Mr. Doyle and his family as well as offered a very generous compensation to the family for their inconvenience,” Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said in an email Monday.
Doyle said he was offered a $2,500 voucher, which expires in one year, and was told Air Canada may cover his expenses.
The family’s misadventure underscores the airline industry’s controversial practice of overselling flights and bumping passengers.
Last week, a United Airlines passenger was dragged off an oversold plane in Chicago after he refused to be bumped from the flight. The violent incident, captured by cellphone cameras and shared through social media, sparked a wave of outrage.
In the P.E.I. family’s case, Doyle said an Air Canada agent told him at the airport that the plane only had 28 seats, but 34 tickets had been sold.
“She said it was very unlikely that six people wouldn’t show up for a flight over March break,” he said.
Arthur said families travelling with children under the age of 12 are typically seated together, but she said a “miscommunication” occurred because the airline was not dealing directly with the family.
However, Doyle said he reached out to Air Canada several times before and after the family’s trip, to no avail.
“It wasn’t until the media picked up the story that Air Canada actually contacted us,” he said.
The airline spokeswoman said the overselling of flights is done using computer algorithms that look at historical data to identify patterns of where and when customers do not show up. While the airline sells below what the patterns predict, she said there are times when customers must be moved to another flight due to an over-sale.
“Typically, we are able to find volunteers to take a later flight and if not, we will base our decision on other factors, such as families travelling together, whether the customer has onward connections or if they are checked-in and have an assigned seat,” she said.
“Such decisions are made before final seats are assigned and customers board the aircraft.”