A mother says that she was completely livid when she and her 3 children were turned away at the airport in Seoul, South Korea, from an Air Canada flight due to Canadian safety regulations.
Tara Stemkoski says she was planning to fly home to P.E.I. because her 80-year-old grandmother was ill.
“I would never be able to forgive myself for not going home,” she said.
Stemkoski is originally from the Island, but has been living in South Korea for about 8 years and lives there with her husband, five-year-old daughter and three-month-old twins.
Stemkoski’s husband had a business trip booked at the same time she was supposed to come to P.E.I., he however planned to follow her 3 weeks later, meaning she would be travelling alone with her three children. “Trying to organize everything for three kids, trying to drag everyone home, it was very intimidating,” she said.
Stemkoski booked with Air Canada and called an agent twice to make sure she would be allowed to travel with her children.
“She said I had one lap baby, one was in a car seat beside me, and it wouldn’t be a problem,” she said.
However, when Stemkoski arrived at the airport in Seoul with her three children in tow, she was told something different.
“I got to the front desk and handed over all of our passports to the agent, and she was looking at our passports and then looking at the babies,” she said. “I didn’t really think anything of it. She tagged all of our baggage and sent it through.”
Stemkoski was told she wasn’t allowed to travel alone with two infants, because of Canadian aviation regulations that require an adult for each infant – defined as a child under two years of age.
Federal regulations say the rule is to ensure a parent is able to safely evacuate from the plane with a child in an emergency. “I’ve seen larger families travel before, so I didn’t even consider that there would be a possibility that there would be any issues flying with two small babies and a younger child,” said Stemkoski.
She contacted the airline at the time and was told there was nothing Air Canada could do to get her on the flight, but that it would waive the cancellation fees and give her a complete refund for her tickets.
“I was pretty upset by that point in time. I was trying to hold back the tears of just the thought of having to call my family and my nan and tell them that this wasn’t happening,” she said.
Stemkoski said an Air Canada representative has since been in touch with her to help her rebook her flight to P.E.I. In an emailed statement to CBC, an Air Canada spokesperson wrote, “We’re so sorry we didn’t get this right the first time during the booking process. We’ve been in contact with the family and have made arrangements to make sure they all get to see their nan as soon as possible.”
“It’s important we apply Transport Canada’s policy that requires that there are enough adults travelling for the safety of small children in case of an emergency,” the statement continued.
Air Canada booked her another ticket to coincide with her husband’s ticket when he flies out in a few weeks. Stemkoski said she’s happy with the way Air Canada has dealt with the issue since, but is confused as to how it happened in the first place.
“It’s almost laughable to be honest. It’s just so ludicrous that you’d get through booking and reconfirming and getting your boarding pass and everything before someone thinks to check in the manual,” she said.
Stemkoski said Air Canada has also offered an extra adult return ticket from P.E.I. to Seoul, so she and her children can stay in P.E.I. after her husband has to leave, and she can bring someone back with her in order to meet the requirement.
The Mom also said she hopes airlines, including Air Canada, will send out a memo to their agents reminding them of this rule so that other parents don’t face what she did.
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