Trans­port trou­bles

P.E.I. woman in South Korea stopped from board­ing flight be­cause she was trav­el­ling with two in­fants

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD

A small Trans­port Canada rule has cre­ated some big headaches for a P.E.I. woman in South Korea who tried re­turn­ing home to visit a sick fam­ily mem­ber ear­lier this month.

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. 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.”

TARA STEMKOSKI/FACE­BOOK

Tara Stemkoski, a P.E.I. na­tive now liv­ing in Seoul, South Korea, is shown with her now three-month-old daugh­ter Elise. Stemkoski had booked tick­ets for her­self, Elise and Elise’s twin brother, Mal­com, to re­turn to P.E.I. af­ter find­ing out her grand­mother had been hos­pi­tal­ized with pneu­mo­nia. When Stemkoski went to board the flight, she was told she could not travel with more than one in­fant de­spite book­ing an ex­tra seat.

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Big sis­ter Aria is shown with twin sib­lings Mal­com, left, and Elise. Af­ter not be­ing al­lowed to travel with their mother on an Air Canada flight ear­lier this month from South Korea to P.E.I., they will be fly­ing with both their par­ents in early Au­gust.

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