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Air Canada first messes up flight, then the apology, for Charlottetown family

Cole Doyle of Charlottetown made headlines across the country after Air Canada bumped the 10-year-old from a March break flight that was booked in August for his family of four.
Cole Doyle of Charlottetown made headlines across the country after Air Canada bumped the 10-year-old from a March break flight that was booked in August for his family of four.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Brett Doyle of Charlottetown says Air Canada messed up not only in bumping his 10-year-old son from a flight but in how the airline handled apologizing and compensating for the blunder.

Doyle describes the overall treatment by Air Canada as “pretty negative.’’

First, the airline bumped his boy from a prepaid flight to Costa Rica.

Doyle says Air Canada made a debacle of the scheduled flight for the family of four from Charlottetown to Costa Rica that was booked last August.

Related: Overbooked flight causes major headache for Charlottetown family

A day before their March break vacation, Doyle said he tried to check in his family online, but he could not select a seat for his young son Cole.

After hours on the phone with Air Canada, Doyle’s wife Shanna drove to the airport and was told the flight was oversold and their son had been bumped.

The family then drove to Moncton to catch a different Air Canada flight to meet the Costa Rica flight in Montreal, but when that flight was cancelled they were forced to drive to Halifax and stay overnight in a hotel.

Air Canada launched into damage control when The Guardian broke the story and other media quickly jumped on board.

The airline seemed to pat themselves on the back in noting an apology was made to Doyle and his family and “a very generous compensation’’ was offered.

However, Doyle was not overwhelmed by either the apology or the compensation, which included a $2,500 voucher and just over $1,000 to offset expenses incurred by the bumping.

Brett and Shanna Doyle pose with their children Cole, left, and Simon during a vacation in Miami in 2016. That vacation fortunately lacked the major frustration of the family's trip to Costa Rica this past March. Air Canada bumped 10-year-old Cole from the pre-paid flight, leaving the family scrambling to make alternate arrangements.

He said the voucher doesn’t cover the cost of tickets for a family of four to Costa Rica. He added using the voucher before it expires in just one year might also be a challenge.

Related: After P.E.I. boy bumped from flight, feds say passenger bill of rights coming

As for the apology, Doyle said it rings hollow, noting media coverage seemed to push Air Canada to respond, not the complaints of a family given a bumpy ride by the airline.

“I still don’t think anything was genuine,’’ he said.

“I think their hand was forced into this.’’

Doyle added going public with his story, which received wide coverage across the country and was even picked up by media in Costa Rica, did not seem to accomplish anything to address Air Canada’s policy on overbooking.

Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur told The Guardian last month the overselling of flights is done using computer algorithms that look at historical data to identify patterns showing where and when customers do not show up.

While the airline sells below what the patterns predict, Arthur said there are times when customers must be moved to another flight due to an over-sale.

Arthur told The Guardian in an email Monday that Air Canada has no immediate plans to change its overbooking policy.

Meanwhile, United Airlines recently announced it would offer more cash, better training and fewer oversold flights to help the airline avoid a repeat of the controversy and public relations disaster that erupted after a passenger was dragged off one of its flights in April.

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