Hey Air Canada: I Am Going To Venice Not Havana!
This is an unbelievable story of my recent flight on Air Canada.
An incredible vacation with my wife and daughter to Europe starts off as a disaster when I am minutes away from going to Havana, Cuba.
Yes, just minutes away from arriving in Havana, Cuba.
I will start this story in Toronto where my family landed for a short layover and to change planes.
While my wife Kathy and I have been to Europe several times, this was the first time our adult daughter joined us.
As I stated earlier we were in Toronto waiting for our flight to Venice when they called our group number for boarding.
“Group 5 may board the plane at Gate 81″, this is what I heard.
I am the type of person that always likes to board the plane as early as possible so I can put my bags in the overhead closest to me.
For the reason above I always go to the line as soon as they call my group number. Unlike my wife who likes to get her last few minutes in walking for exercise before boarding, typically after me.
I walked up to Gate 81, joined the line and patiently waited my for turn to check in.
When I reached the front of the line I handed my ticket to the Air Canada Employee.
I don’t think he liked his job very much. Sometimes you can just tell from the lack of a smile or the body language that the Air Canada Employee had.
He scanned my ticket and handed it back. It was an uneventful experience like I have had hundreds of times at the airport.
I entered the plane, found my seat, stored my bag and tried to get comfortable.
As people entered the plane I kept an eye out for my family, thinking I would see them any minute.
It was not until the plane was almost full that someone sat in my wife’s seat. The fact that someone sat in my wife’s seat made me wonder what was going on?
Where is my wife and daughter and why is this guy sitting in my wife’s seat?
I needed to figure out what was going on. I looked for a stewardess but could not see one.
I finally starting asked people in the aisle to see their ticket. No one seemed to speak English but I thought if I could see their ticket I could at least confirm to myself I was in the right place.
Finally the 4th person I asked understood me and showed me their ticket.
I looked at their ticket and the first thing I saw was Havana.
Havana!! WTF!! How did I get on a flight to Havana? I have to get off this plane now.
During this time my family boarded the correct flight and their part of the nightmare began.
Expecting to see me in my seat they were definitely concerned not see me seated.
Here Is Their Story From My Daughters Point Of View.
We left DFW early Friday morning ecstatic for my first trip to Europe! We Arrived in Toronto for a layover and had the overnight flight to Venice.
Prior to boarding in Toronto my mother and I told my dad to go ahead as he has baggage he likes to have room in the overhead bin.
My mother and I went to the bathroom, walked around and then got in line at gate 80 to Venice.
Overhead we heard final boarding for Venice gate 81! I thought it was funny because they said the wrong gate, in fact I said I hope no one gets in the wrong line.
As soon as my mother and I got on the plane and walked down the aisle to our row I noticed my dad was not in his seat. I had a bad gut feeling instantly that he was not on the plane.
Moments later the flight attendant was at our row and said “Leland Party of 3?”
I said it is just us two here and I don't think my Dad is on the plane. We all quickly realized he had not gotten on the plane.
I instantly became very anxious and rushed to the front of the plane. I was in conversation with one particular flight attendant and told her how concerned I was and how out of character this was of my father. She told me “He probably stopped at the store” and how this “happens all the time”.
I assured her that this was not typical behavior of him and asked her if I could get off the plane to check the bathroom and surrounding areas for him. I told her I was a marathon runner and would be very fast. She told me no, I couldn't get off the plane unless I didn't want to get back on.
I was trying to call my dad but he wasn't answering. We had all put our phones on airplane mode so we would not incur international calling fees. The flight attendant looked at me and my mother and said “Are you willing to travel without him?” I instantly started crying.
We had a cruise leaving Venice, Italy the next day. We had the overnight flight to Venice. What would we do? How could we leave Toronto not knowing he was okay? We didn't know where he was or what was going on. It was very hard to quickly address the problem even though I have been a nurse for 10 years and can handle life threatening, often time sensitive situations.
As I started crying the flight attendant looked at me and said “You need to be an adult right now! You need to make a decision are you willing to fly without him?” In a very gruff tone! i felt very offended by her comments.
My father has had a few health problems this last year nothing major but I still had my reasons to be concerned that my 62 year old dad is missing, and all she kept saying is “This happens all the time, he's probably at the store.”
I kept telling her you don't know my dad he is not at the store. We paused for a moment and then the flight attendant said “We are pulling his luggage”.
Moments later she said they found my father and he was coming. My Dad came running out of breath, down the gate less than a minute later. He got on the plane and all I could do was hug him and cry.
I was so emotional and happy that he was safe. He later told me the story of how he was on the wrong plane and had boarded gate 81 like they had said overhead instead of the correct flight which was our gate 80 to Venice!
He was on a plane to Havana and when my mother and I didn't show up he asked a fellow passenger to see their ticket and found out that plane was going to Havana.
When he finally got back to the front of the plane the flight attendant was rude and told him he had to run to the next gate. Not only is my dad 62 but recently had surgery and the flight attendant told him he had to run.
Even though it was their mistake they said the wrong gate overhead and scanned his ticket at the counter to the incorrect destination. This event is so disturbing in so many ways! airport security is always very strict in the USA, but Air Canada was truly lacking on this day. It scares me that this can and did happen.
My dad was visibly shaken when he got to his seat and had hurt his calf trying to run. We all just sat there held hands and prayed and thanked god that we were all together and safe and on our way to Venice, Italy.
Once I realized I was on the wrong flight I immediately tried to get off the plane.
I grabbed my backpack and started fighting my way through the crowd of people in the aisle who were attempting to stow their carry ons.
Finally, I reached the front and the flight attendant stopped me.
Where do you think you are going she asked.
I proceeded to tell her I was on the wrong flight, and showed her my boarding pass.
How did you get on the plane she asked? Did you come on the plane using the back way?
Back way, I asked! I did not even know there was a back way. Really, where is the security on this Air Canada plane?
Good thing I was not a bad guy trying to board the wrong plane, or maybe worst just leaving a backpack or package on the plane.
I proceeded to the exit door where I was stopped again. This flight attendant was actually helpful. Once she saw my ticket she called someone on the phone.
You need to RUN she said. Your plane is about to take off!
I actually ran all the way to the gate. Even though the gates were close together, the walkways to the plane were long.
Upon reaching the gate the lady collecting tickets saw me, asked if I was Mr. Leland.
Then in a smart ass tone told me my family was waiting for me and I need to run again, all the way to the plane or I would miss my flight.
Once I saw the actual plane and that the door was open I quit running. I was out of breath and had pulled a muscle in my leg. I don't run, so it kind of took a toll on me.
The flight attendants were only concerned with getting me on the plane, so I went straight to my seat. I still find it odd that even thought they knew I was coming from the incorrect flight to Cuba they never even asked me a single word about my experience of getting on the wrong flight.
Not even a kind gesture of, we are sorry or may we get you a drink, nothing! I realize they are busy with take off but I thought surely they would come check on me later since it is a long flight. The customer service was unacceptable and very disappointing.
The real concern I have is with safety.
I am sure everyone is concerned with safety on flights. After the attack on our county by terrorist that flew planes into buildings killing thousands. So of course safety is a major concern to everyone.
How was I able to hand the agent a ticket to Italy, and be allowed to board a plane to Cuba?
When he scanned the QR Code on my ticket shouldn't it have informed the gate agent that the flight to Cuba was not my flight?
Can I just buy a ticket to anywhere and walk on to any flight that Air Canada has?
Talk about unsafe, uncontrolled, and just plain scary the security was not in place on the day I traveled.
I think it is horrific that not only was I allowed to get on the wrong plane, but if I had not been looking for my wife and daughter I probably would have ended up in Cuba, and probably arrested going through customs.
The United State Government needs to take a look serious at Air Canada to make sure their safety and security is up to our standards, or the next time we have terrorist take over a plane it could be from our northern neighbors.
I hope there will be a formal investigation so this will never happen to another family.
If the flight to Cuba would have taken off and my family gotten off the plane in Toronto, Canada, it would of been a major disaster.
My family would of filed a missing persons report, and would not have any idea that I was in Cuba.
It makes me sad to think how close we were to making my family worry and suffer due to this horrible error.