Tara Stemkoski had Air Canada tickets booked for herself, five-year-old daughter Aria and three-month-old twins Malcom and Elise earlier this month after hearing that her grandmother was hospitalized in P.E.I. with pneumonia.
“I was worried because pneumonia, when you’re in your 80s, can be pretty serious,” said Stemkoski, adding that her husband was set to fly back to P.E.I. to join them in August.
Stemkoski said an Air Canada agent helped book the tickets for July 24.
Although Stemkoski was aware each passenger could only have one lap baby, she said she double-checked and was told that she would be fine since she had booked an extra seat ticket for one of the infants.
However, Air Canada officials asked Stemkoski to step aside when she arrived at the airport so they could check on a regulation.
After waiting an hour, she was told that she would not be allowed on the flight due to a Transport Canada regulation limiting one infant to every passenger.
“I was kind of horrified, it really seemed like we were just given a complete brush-off,” said Stemkoski, who questioned why she was never informed of the rule while booking the ticket.
She then called Air Canada and was offered a refund as well as for her cancellation fees to be waived.
“I went home fairly downtrodden…. I just kind of felt like they didn’t care.”
Grandmother Lillian Stuart, who is now out of the hospital and “doing much better,” said she and her granddaughter were both heartbroken about the news.
“She’s a very, very organized person, and I’m sure there would have been no problems with her taking babies on the plane,” said Stuart, who lives in Montague.
A Transport Canada statement said that under Canadian aviation regulations, no person shall be responsible for more than one infant (a person under two years of age) during a flight.
“In the event that an evacuation is needed, it is very difficult to safely evacuate an aircraft in a timely manner while holding more than one infant,” said the statement. “These rules align with international standards and best practices. There are no exceptions to the regulation.”
Stuart said she disagrees with the rule.
“If the mother feels comfortable with that I see no problems with it,” said Stuart.
A spokesperson for Air Canada said they were “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,” said the spokesperson. “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 airline reinstated Stemkoski’s tickets for the flight her husband was originally booked on.
Want to wade into the debate? Write a letter to the editor and email it to email@example.com. Be sure to include a name, address and daytime telephone number where the author can be contacted. Letters should be no more than 250 words.
With her husband’s return flight before the rest of the family’s, the airline also offered a complimentary ticket for Stemkoski’s father to take care of one of the infants during their return.
Despite the headaches and heartbreak, Stuart said she’s looking forward to seeing her two new great-grandchildren for the first time when they arrive next month.
“I’m very excited.”