Mother of All Mavens

A whole lot o' nothing. And then someā€¦

Everyone has their air travel horror stories. And I get it: shit happens. But what happens when a family of 5 with three young kids can’t book seats together? They get bumped, that’s what.

This isn’t the “bump” of yesteryear, where volunteers are called upon and rewarded with free flights, hotels, food. This is a completely arbitrary bump. A bump that began at check-in and didn’t stop: for nearly 7 hours.

When we arrived at YYZ for our flight to Puerto Vallarta, my Man and I and our 3 boys (ages 4, 7, and 9) were a little tense. We’d reserved seats together but when I went to check-in online, I saw that we’d been scattered across the plane. Instead of printing the boarding passes then and there, I figured we’d deal with it at the airport. Big mistake.

At the desk, the agent told us he’d found us seats together in the back. But before he could print the boarding passes, he informed us that there was a weight restriction on the plane. Meaning:
a) headwinds were heavy so extra fuel was needed and, therefore, something had to give
b) there was cargo that had priority.
c) They needed a way to re-route travelers stranded by “Nemo”

(We would go on to get different answers at each stop.)

Regardless, we were reassured the gate would take care of us, seat us together and send us on our merry way. After all, and yeah, I quote: “no one wants to sit beside kids”.

Then he stuck STANDBY tags on our bags. I knew we were doomed. But rather than admit it, and let us try to sort something out, he urged us to “stay positive” and deal with it at the desk.

Bumped to the gate. Which was already packed with irate passengers, but no one from Air Canada. I grabbed a spot in the line. 30 minutes after the gate was due to open, an agent arrived. One by one passengers were told they were on stand-by and to take a seat in the lounge until they were paged. When it was my turn, I asked if there was any chance our family would get on that plane. The response was, at least, an honest one: not likely. I was bumped to Customer Service.

While my Man chased, corralled, fed and entertained our three sons, even the other bumpees felt our pain. No one wants to sit beside kids on the plane, sometimes not even their own parents! But when they’re stuck with them in the terminal, they’re all friendly babysitters.

Post-bump calm before the re-book storm.
Post-bump calm before the re-book storm.

I was one of the lucky ones. After 45 minutes in line at Customer Service, I reached the agent. It started off swell. She informed me she’d get us to PVR via Chicago. We’d be on a flight to O’Hare first thing the next day, with 45 minutes to catch the connector. “Ummm…don’t they close the gate 30 minutes before departure?” I asked.


The agent then spent another 20 minutes trying to find us a different flight to Chicago. She refused to put us up in a local Chicago hotel – until I overheard the agent at the next counter offer to put up another Mexico-bound couple up in Houston. She relented and offered us a night in Chi-Town. Fun! Adventure! Right? Wrong. In the time it took the other agents to re-book passengers via Houston (and Dallas and San Francisco) ours still couldn’t confirm us. And when, another 25 minutes later, she suggested that we leave the area and head to United Airlines’ ticket counter to confirm the flight, I lost it. A manager arrived and I burst into tears. I’d been waiting by that counter for well over an hour by this point. My kids were running riot. Everyone else was being re-booked and we were stuck.

After all, it was hard enough to rebook a pair of tickets, let alone a party of 5!

Then my Man arrived. Bad Cop to my Good. Complete gender stereotypes. While I played nice and eventually broke down and cried, he barged up to the counter guns a-blazing. He’s a very tall fellow. With an exceptionally loud voice. And he lost in. Completely. And when he started in on our agent, her colleague advised her to ignore him and threatened to call security. At this point, our agent begged off, saying she needed to leave. To catch a flight perhaps?? I’m sure she was just as exhausted as we were – only she was being paid and part of the customer service department while we were the paying customers not getting any service.

And then something clicked. Two managers took over. And, after much more ado and another hour of furious typing and kids now wrestling at my feet, we were blessed with a direct flight the next day. From YYZ. They gave us $100 in food vouchers – and then took back half of them. When they heard about the +5-hour backlog at park ‘n fly, they sweetened the pot with return car service from the airport and back again. I had to remind them that every other passenger had been offered compensation to the tune of $200 off future travel with Air Canada. After checking with someone else (another 15 minutes) they sent us off with promises that our 5 travel vouchers would be emailed to me ASAP. So far, I’ve only received 4.

What airline bumps a party of 5?? In a hellish prime-time travel situation? Deuces and triples were being rerouted within minutes. And singles had no issue whatsoever! But our motley group of 3 under-9’s plus parents? Turfed.

And now, instead of tacos and tequila on the beach, we’re at home with an empty fridge. We’re battle-weary, but trying to stay positive – all the while on hold with Air Canada to find our missing voucher and inquire about compensation for our lost hotel night.

After 2 hours and 57 minutes of being on-hold (speakerphone), they answered! I was to write an email asking for the missing voucher and any further reimbursement. There was nothing they could do.

Bumped again.

It’s been a long day.

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